KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — Preventive detention from an anti-terrorism law may be applied to any offence that authorities deem to be against national security, said a lawyer when explaining its broad powers.
Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan explained that Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) is unlike usual laws in that it prescribes procedures for arrests and detentions that may be used with other legislation dealing with threats to national security.
“SOSMA doesn’t provide or predicate offences. So you don’t commit an offence under SOSMA,” he said in a text message to Malay Mail Online.
“So if a person is charged under S.124B for example, the prosecution can invoke SOSMA. If invoked, the procedures and rules will differ from normal criminal trials under the Criminal Procedure Code,” he added.
Section 124B of the Penal Code criminalises activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy, although what such activities are is not specifically stated in the law.
Although introduced ostensibly to provide Putrajaya powers to counteract terrorism, which it lost when it repealed the Internal Security Act (ISA), Syahredzan explained that the way SOSMA was framed allowed it to be used in instances beyond terrorism.
He added SOSMA’s only requirement was in cases which were deemed to affect national security and that its application was entirely at the discretion of the police and prosecution.
Under Section 28 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPI), police can only detain an individual for no more than 24 hours in order to assist with investigations and may further remand them for a maximum of 14 days.
Under SOSMA, however, a person can be detained without trial for up to periods of 29 days at a time, renewable indefinitely.
Lawyers for Liberty’s Eric Paulsen argued that the ability to invoke SOSMA for activities deemed to be security threats by the authorities allow it to be abused in ways that violate the spirit of the law.
“They can even use SOSMA for the opposition, for MPs or for Bersih participants. All those in the future, like for #KitaLawan or Bersih rallies, anytime they can call these people up,” he said in a phone interview with Malay Mail Online.
Former Batu Kawan Umno deputy chief Khairuddin Abu Hassan, who filed reports against 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in several countries, was rearrested by the police Wednesday evening under SOSMA for offences under Section 124K and 124L of the Penal Code.
Section 124K and 124L deal with sabotage and attempting to sabotage the state respectively.
Khairuddin was initially arrested on suspicion of acting to “topple the government” under Section 124C of the Penal Code.
The former deputy chief of the Umno Batu Kawan division had been on a global tour to solicit investigations by other countries into 1MDB.
Syahredzan also noted that SOSMA was previously invoked for “terrorism offences” but this could possibly be the first time it was being used for offences under Section 124 of the Penal Code.