B S A Tahir released; many more still detained under ISA

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syedibrahimThe Home Minister recently said that B S A Tahir was not a threat anymore and there was a recommendation for him to be released. He further added that he thought what needed to be investigated has been investigated. This development is another ugly episode of the arbitrary nature of the ISA, says Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (right), as neither clear explanation nor details were given as to the nature of the threat or national security risks.

On 23 June 2008, the government revealed that B S A Tahir had been released on 6 June 2008 from detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) after being held for four years over alleged links with a nuclear blackmarket. The case of B S A Tahir drew additional attention because he was linked to a company partly owned by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s son to procure centrifuge components for the proliferation of nuclear technology.

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) or Abolish ISA Movement (AIM) welcomes the release based on the basic principle that no one should be detained without trial for an indefinite period. Anyone detained should have the right to a fair trial, failing which the person should be released. This principle applies goes for all the other detainees, around 65 of them, who are still languishing in Kamunting Detention Camp. Some have been there for more than six years. Some even had recommendations of release issued by the Advisory Board but their detention periods were extended with no particular reasons given except stating that they were still a threat to national security.

GMI is astonished by the statements made by the Home Minister and government officials on the release of B S A Tahir when barely two months ago, he was still deemed a threat to national security and the country’s economy. He was considered a threat because investigations revealed that he had links with an international network involved in the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology to Libya and therefore would expose Malaysia to breaching its commitments to the United Nations resolutions on the proliferation. (See Bernama report on 7 May 2008: “B S A Tahir was a threat to national security, country’s economy – Syed Hamid”).

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The Home Minister, however, recently said that B S A Tahir was not a threat anymore and there was a recommendation for him to be released. He further added that he thought what needed to be investigated has been investigated.

GMI views this development as another ugly episode of the arbitrary nature of the ISA. Neither clear explanation nor details were given as to the nature of the threat or national security risks. In fact under the ISA, the Home Minister has no obligation to disclose to the public or to the courts the details of the detention or release. He has absolute power to detain a person without trial or proof, bypassing any judicial process, as well as to extend the detention arbitrarily. This is a clear violation of rule of the law.

The wide array of powers provided under the ISA makes it a very convenient for abuse. In the case of B S A Tahir, questions must be ask as to why he was detained under the ISA and not charged in the courts if investigations had been carried out. Questions also arise as to the nature of the release. Why now? Who made the recommendation? What were the specific reasons? Is there any connection to the current political climate?

GMI believes that as long as the ISA still exists, none of the questions will be answered. Selective detention and release as well as the extension of detention will continue to carried out at the mercy of the Home Minister. GMI reiterates that the ISA is in total contradiction to all human rights principles, especially the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to a fair and open trial, the right to legal counsel and the right to be free from torture. The ISA is indefensible and unjustifiable in any circumstances and should be abolished immediately.

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Abolish ISA!

Release all ISA detainees!

Close down Kamunting Detention Camp!

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh

Chairman, GMI

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