Malaysian govt must pay MP for wrongful ISA arrest: Top court

Federal court dismisses govt's appeal against $113k award for DAP member's 2008 arrest

PUTRAJAYA • Malaysia's highest court yesterday ruled in favour of opposition MP Teresa Kok, affirming a RM350,000 (S$113,000) compensation award for her wrongful arrest and detention in 2008, reported news site Malay Mail Online.

The Federal Court dismissed the government's bid to appeal against a decision last July awarding the compensation, bringing to a close an eight-year legal battle by the Democratic Action Party (DAP) politician.

"The application is dismissed. The lawsuit is settled," said the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, in delivering the three-man panel's unanimous decision.

On July 26 last year, the Court of Appeal had reversed the High Court's previous decision to dismiss Ms Kok's lawsuit after finding that the authorities did not have sufficient grounds to arrest her.

Ms Kok said outside the courtroom yesterday: "I think justice has been done to me after waiting for nine years.

"I was arrested under the ISA in 2008 and now it is 2017. So after nine years, I have to thank the judges, and thank also my lawyer, who has been fighting for me on this case for nine years."

The MP for Seputeh was referring to the Internal Security Act 1960, a statute that allowed a person to be detained indefinitely without trial. The Act was repealed in 2012.

DAP MP Teresa Kok (in red) with her lawyers and supporters outside the Federal Court in Putrajaya yesterday. In 2008, she was held under the ISA for allegedly taking part in activities that could cause racial tension.
DAP MP Teresa Kok (in red) with her lawyers and supporters outside the Federal Court in Putrajaya yesterday. In 2008, she was held under the ISA for allegedly taking part in activities that could cause racial tension. PHOTO: TERESA KOK/TWITTER

"This is my happiest day," she later added, according to the Malay Mail Online.

Ms Kok had filed a civil suit in March 2009 against the Malaysian government, then Home Minister Syed Hamid Syed Albar, then Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan and Deputy Superintendent E Kim Tien for damages over her wrongful arrest and detention.

The appellate court had awarded RM350,000 to Ms Kok after finding the government liable for her wrongful arrest and seven-day detention in 2008 under the now-abolished ISA.

In her statement of claim, Ms Kok said that she was arrested by the defendants at 11.15pm on Sept 12, 2008, and was not allowed to contact her lawyer or relatives during a two-hour detention that followed.

She said she was informed at 2am the next day that she was being detained under section 73(1) of the ISA for allegedly taking part in activities that could cause racial tension.

According to news site The Star, she was arrested for allegedly asking in February 2008 for a mosque to lower the volume at which the "azan" or Muslim call to prayer was played. Ms Kok said she was then detained without trial at a secret location until her release on Sept 19 that year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysian govt must pay MP for wrongful ISA arrest: Top court'. Print Edition | Subscribe