Lawyers slam A-G’s no bail decision

Several lawyers disagree with the Attorney-General’s decision to disallow bail for sex bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee.

Lisa J. Ariffin, FMT

Several lawyers have today slammed the Attorney-General’s (AG) decision in disallowing bail for sex bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee who posted an insensitive Ramadan greeting on their Facebook, recently.

The duo better known as Alvivi were charged with publishing indecent photographs, promoting enmity among the races and for sedition at the Jalan Duta Sessions Court yesterday.

Tan and Lee were sent to the Sungai Buloh Prison and Kajang Prison, respectively.

PKR lawyer Latheefa Koya said that the decision was “overkill.”

“They were charged with three offences and the fact that they were denied bail is certainly extreme,” she told FMT.

According to Latheefa, the court has the discretion to grant bail for “non-bailable” offences but not so for “unbailable” offences.

“In fact, bail can be granted to a person charged with sedition for the first time. Non-bailable doesn’t mean you cannot grant bail to a person and only in limited circumstances do you actually deny bail,” she said.

She added that the court should have instead allowed bail “under strict conditions” if it (the court) is worried that Alvivi will continue uploading more offensive material online.

“Bail is used to secure a person’s attendance but when you go beyond that, it becomes a form of punishment. In this case, bail was denied to punish the person,” she alleged.

“I hope their lawyers will appeal against the decision as this may lead to a dangerous precedent,” she added.

Lawyer Faisal Moideen shared the same sentiments “as there is no danger in granting bail.”

However, Faisal disagreed that the charges were harsh and pointed out that Alvivi’s lawyers could still appeal against the charges.

“It doesn’t mean that you are prosecuted now, you cannot state your defence in court. The prosecution team must go to trial to prove their (Alvivi’s) guilt,” he added.

“I understand the reservation about the use of the Sedition Act but it has been used before even during the Cow Head Protest in 2009. Unless it is repealed, the law must be abide to,” he said.

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri of Lawyers for Liberty disagreed with Faisal and said the “prosecution was done arbitrarily” but agreed that “the AG denying bail was uncalled for.”

“Bail is as of right and the purpose is to ensure the accused attends trials and subsequent proceedings in court,” she said.

“It is apparent that they are trying to punish Alvivi and the whole charge is arbitrary because if you look at the Facebook post, it is not something inciting violence. Yes, it is offensive but not a crime,” she added.

Fadiah said Alvivi’s action was of “ignorance and insensitivity,” but it “does not warrant prosecution in court”.

She added that the case was “politically motivated” to gain the support of the Malays and Muslim community.

“This is clearly an abuse of the court process and is politically motivated. They are trying to get the support of the Malays and other Muslims by showing that they are staunchly defending Islam,” she said.

“You have to remember that these people charged are not found guilty yet. The way everybody is behaving, it is as if the court has already convicted them. This is against the principles of law,” she added.

“They have not yet been proven guilty. Why is everybody speculating?”