Force used to disperse Hindraf rally, court told

(Bernama) – The Sessions Court here was told police generally used water-cannons and teargas to disperse crowds during a demonstration organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) on Nov 25, 2007.

However, Datuk Acryl Sani, former deputy director of the Criminal Investigation Department, did not rule out that truncheons might have been used by Federal Reserve Unit personnel, which could have resulted in injuries to some of the demonstrators.

“We monitored live feeds received from our police cameramen on the ground directly at Bukit Aman (federal police headquarters) but the visuals did not indicate truncheons were used against the demonstrators,” he said.

Cross-examined by lawyer P. Uthayakumar on whether he was aware that a demonstrator suffered a heart attack due inhaling too much teargas and later died at the Ampang Hospital, Acryl said police never received any such report.

He told the court he could not verify the authenticity of a burial certicate alleged by Uthayakumar to belong to a 62-year-old man identified as Murugiah Ratnam as it was a photostat copy and needed to be checked with the Ampang police station. Acryl, who is currently attached to Bukit Aman as deputy management director, disagreed with Uthayakumar’s suggestion that police had covered up the death.

“I had checked with the Dang Wangi police station after a photograph of a blood-stained Indian man, allegedly killed in Lebuh Ampang, was posted on the ‘Police Watch Malaysia’ website, but the station confirmed that did not receive such a report,” he added.

He also disagreed with Uthayakumar that more than 100,000 people took part in the demonstration and added that the police’s estimate was between 10,000 and 30,000 people.

On Dec 11, 2007, Uthayakumar, 47, had pleaded not guilty in the same court to publishing a seditious letter on the “Police Watch Malaysia” website.

The charge under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 carries a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonment up to three years, or both, on conviction.

Two days later, Uthayakumar was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) following his involvement in street demonstrations here on Nov 25 and allegedly making seditious remarks against the Government.

Acryl also told the court that his department had several meetings prior to the demonstration to discuss strategies on how to handle the situation on the ground.

Questioned further by Uthayakumar, the senior police officer agreed that after the “Ops Padam Hindraf” operation to tackle the demonstration, police had recommended to the Home Ministry to ban the illegal movement.

“After the demonstration, we also had a meeting with the Special Branch on Dec 1, 2007, which later led to the arrest of Uthayakumar and others under the ISA,” added Arcyl.

The hearing before Judge Sabariah Othman continues Friday.