Lahad Datu: Police detective pleads not guilty to withholding information on terrorist activities

(The Star) – KOTA KINABALU: A special branch police detective pleaded not guilty to an amended charge of withholding information on terrorist activities as a protected witness began testifying against him from a closed room in court.

Kpl Hassan Ali Basari, 55, whose trial began Monday afternoon before High Court Judge Ravintharan Paramaguru, made the plea after the prosecution team led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Nordin Hassan amended the dates of the offences for the charge under Section 130M of the Penal Code.

He was charged for withholding information on the Sulu terrorist incursion and allegedly committed the offence at the office at the Lahad Datu special branch on the district police headquarters between January and March 3, 2013.

He faces up to seven years imprisonment or fine or both if found guilty.

(When Hassan was first charged under Section 130M of the Penal Code on March 29 at the Magistrates Court in Lahad Datu, the date of offences committed was between Feb 9 and March 3, 2013).

Nordin had told the court that the prosecution would present oral and documentary evidence to show that the accused, as a special branch officer, had information that a terrorist act would be committed relating to the intrusion by the Sulu gunmen into Kg Tanduo, Lahad Datu.

“The prosecution will also show evidence that the accused had intentionally omitted from informing and reporting the information relating to the terrorist act to any of his superior officers in the special branch which he was legally bound to do so,” he said.

Nordin said that the prosecution would also present evidence to show that the accused had a good relationship with the Sulu sultanate and the accused had been on several occasions been in contact with Datu Agbimuddin Kiram, the leader of the Royal Sulu force.

The trial started with first witness, who was inside a closed room adjacent to the courtroom, giving his testimony through specially fitted microphone and only the court judge and the court’s transcriber were able to listen through a earphone.

The prosecution and Hassan’s four-member defence team led by Ram Singh obtained the witness’ answers through a computer screen before proceeding with further questioning at the courthouse which was under high level of security.

The first witness, who was identified as Protected Witness 1, said that he had informed Kpl Hassan about the possible intrusion sometime in January as he had heard that some 1,500 people of self proclaimed Sulu Sultan Ismail Kiram were planning to enter Sabah to claim their ancestral land.

The witness said that he heard about the impending intrusion when he overheard a group of people wearing orange stripped “Royal Sulu Force” overalls speaking about the plans when he was selling fish at Bongao in Philippines.

The witness said that on his return to Lahad Datu he searched for special branch officers Insp Yusri or Insp Syazwan but since both were not available, he met with Kpl Hassan at an ice cream shop in Lahad Datu to pass on the information.

“I told him that they were four tempel (boats) that will enter Lahad Datu,” he said adding that don’t take this information lightly and inform your senior officers about the planned Sulu intrusion.

In cross examining, Singh asked if the information he provided to Hassan was about illegal immigrants coming into the state and he did not tell Hassan about the Sulu army, the witness said that he gave the detail of the Sulu force.

When Singh asked the witness whether he had provided the “so called” information to Insp Yusri and Insp Syazwan and Kpl Hassan was being made a “scapegoat,” the witness replied; “ itu terpulang kepada kamu (that it is up to you).”

Nordin, who had objected to the questioning, asked the witness if he had provided the information to Insp Yusri or Insp Syazwan to which the witness replied that “Yusri was not around at that time and asked him to report to Kpl Hassan.”

Earlier yesterday morning, Justice Paramaguru allowed Kpl Hassan to seek medical attention after he complained of “chest discomfort” before the trial resumed at 2pm.

At the Kota Kinabalu High Court, police maintained high level of security including carrying out body scans on all people entering the court premises and also before entering the courtroom.

Hassan is among 31 people charged in court for various offences related to the Feb 12 Sulu intrusion at Kg Tanduo in Lahad Datu.