Military court says no power to declare mistrial in airman’s ‘indelible ink’ case

The senior airman faces two charges over a media statement he made stating his dissatisfaction with the indelible ink used in last year’s general election and for making a statement without the approval of the Defence Ministry. ― Picture by Melissa Chi
The senior airman faces two charges over a media statement he made stating his dissatisfaction with the indelible ink used in last year’s general election and for making a statement without the approval of the Defence Ministry. ― Picture by Melissa Chi

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 — A Military Court rejected today a bid by lawyers for Major Zaidi Ahmad, charged with military misconduct, to declare a mistrial in the airman’s controversial “indelible ink” case, insisting it does not have the authority to do so.

Colonel Saadon Hasnan, who led the five-man panel, also said the Military Court is not the right place for the defence to submit arguments questioning the court’s integrity.

He explained that the defence’s arguments had previously been dismissed by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) which alone has the authority to power to set up and dissolve the military court panel.

"The court panel unanimously rejects the defence's arguments unless they are based on the charges in this trial," he said.

Major Zaidi, who as a military officer on duty had qualified to vote ahead of the public in the general elections last year, had lodged a police report claiming that the indelible ink used had come off easily when he washed his hands after casting his ballot.

The senior airman faces two charges over a media statement he made stating his dissatisfaction with the indelible ink used in last year’s general election and for making a statement without the approval of the Defence Ministry.

The offences were committed at the compound of the Kepala Batas police headquarters on May 1 last year, and Taman Bertam Indah, Kepala Batas on May 3 respectively.

Today, Major Zaidi’s lead counsel Mohamed Hanipa Maidin insisted that he could only submit on his team’s request for the court to declare a mistrial.

“We can only submit on mistrial because we are questioning the integrity and the independence of the court.

“But since the court disallowed us from submitting on that point, we have decided not to submit,” he told reporters outside the courtroom.

The Sepang MP pointed out that the defence team has been asking the court to stay the trial pending the outcome of the judicial review to compel the convening authority to provide an explanation for striking out the defence’s application.

The review has been set for February 5 at the KL High Court.

“But the court seems to want to rush the trial but now suddenly they say they need a longer time to discuss thoroughly.

“If the court is uncertain whether they can make the decision, the court can always hear the argument and then refer the argument to the convening authority for decision.

“But to deny us from submitting on that point, I think is a breach of Article 5 of the Constitution,” he said.

Article 5 of the Federal Constitution covers the “fundamental liberties” of a Malaysian citizen, including his or her right to be informed of the reasons for arrest and to be legally represented by a lawyer of his choice.

The court has set January 7 for decision.