PUTRAJAYA, July 13 — The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) will be reviewing all ongoing sedition cases to consider whether to continue prosecution or drop the charges, a deputy public prosecutor said today.
DPP Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said however that the review would be done if those being charged have written or made a legal representation to the AGC for their sedition cases to be dropped.
“Yes, we are reviewing all sedition cases, but there must be a legal representation, then we will review,” he told Malay Mail when contacted today.
He said that the AGC will decide whether to proceed with or to drop the sedition charges, which will depend partly on the “current policy” for sedition cases.
“It all depends on the policy and the strength of the evidence,” he said. “But the upmost factor is the strength of the cases”.
Wan Shaharuddin had informed the Court of Appeal today in a case involving PKR’s N. Surendran of the AGC’s review plans.
The government is currently under the Pakatan Harapan coalition, which had promised in its 14th general election manifesto to abolish various “cruel” laws such as the Sedition Act 1948.
When asked, Wan Shaharuddin told Malay Mail that there are currently approximately 10 ongoing sedition cases at all different levels of the court, with the lawyers for eight of these cases already having written in their legal representations to the AGC to have their client’s charges dropped.
Lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who represented Surendran today, said that they will be writing to the AGC.
“We will send the representation in due course because we have to formulate the representation in proper terms,” he told reporters when met today at the court complex here.
Gopal said that Surendran should not have been charged with sedition in the first place, as Surendran had merely made his 2014 remarks then as a lawyer for his client Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim over the latter’s second sodomy case.
“Because all he (Surendran) did was to say what his client’s defence was, namely the client’s case was a pre-arranged plan or a political conspiracy.
“That’s it. How can you charge him for laying out his client’s defence in public? The charge is absolutely frivolous and vexatious,” he said.
Today was initially due to be the Court of Appeal’s hearing of Surendran’s appeal against the High Court’s refusal to refer his constitutional challenge against the Sedition Act to the Federal Court.
Surendran, who was charged in August 2014 for his alleged remarks captured in a YouTube video where he allegedly criticised then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over a purported political conspiracy against Anwar, wanted to refer three constitutional questions on the Sedition Act including its validity as a pre-Merdeka law and when intention is irrelevant for conviction.
Lawyer Latheefa Koya, who also represented Surendran, said the AGC today asked the Court of Appeal to defer the case as there would be a review of all sedition cases. Surendran’s lawyers did not object.
The Court of Appeal’s three-man panel, chaired by Datuk Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid and also composing of judges Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Datuk Kamardin Hashim, then fixed August 13 for case management.
Surendran similarly told reporters he should never have been charged in the first place for only defending his client Anwar and claimed his prosecution was an example of power abuse under the previous Najib administration, saying: “It is right and proper that the case be reviewed and charges be dropped.”
According to both Gopal and Latheefa, the Court of Appeal will deliver on July 17 its decision on Surendran’s bid to strike out this sedition case.
He had previously appealed against the High Court’s dismissal of his application for this sedition case to be struck out.
Apart from this case today, Latheefa listed the sedition cases of other clients where constitutional challenges have also been mounted against the Sedition Act, including another case involving Surendran, PKR’s Sivarasa Rasiah, lawyer Eric Paulsen, cartoonists Lawrence Jayaraj and Zunar or Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, and Tamrin Abdul Ghafar.
Latheefa confirmed that representations have been made in these individual’s cases for their sedition charges to be dropped, with the same representation made for PKR’s Chua Tian Chang who is appealing a sedition conviction.