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Unlawful for MACC to deny rights to legal counsel during interrogation, says group

Publish date: Sat, 10 Jun 2023, 01:02 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — It is unlawful for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to deprive the public of their right to lawyers during questioning, according to Lawyers for Liberty (LFL).

The lawyer group’s director Zaid Malek said MACC has no arbitrary right to deny the public legal counsel during the questioning or interrogation process.

“This is arbitrary, unlawful and unbefitting a key enforcement agency of a democratic nation,” he said in a statement, responding to a statement by MACC yesterday claiming it can deny the public legal counsel as it sees fit.

LFL also called on the federal government to seriously look into the administration of MACC and investigate the agency.

He said the government has a duty to ensure all enforcement agencies, including MACC, respect the rule of law and the Federal Constitution.

“It is entirely dishonest for MACC to simply assume that as a legally empowered body that it means that it will or has adhered to the Federal Constitution,” he said.

He said the deaths of Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sarbani while in MACC custody and without legal counsel during interrogation are proof enough that it is a legitimate public concern.

LFL said the court decision quoted by MACC regarding their right to deny legal counsel, in the case of “Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission & Ors v Latheefa Beebi Koya & Anor”, was misleading.

“That court’s statement with regards to right of counsel of witnesses under Article 5 was merely ‘obiter dictum’, an opinion that is not legally binding,” he said.

He said the sole question decided by the Federal Court in the case was only whether a notice under section 30(1)(a) of the MACC Act can be judicially reviewed.

“The case therefore cannot be used as an authority to deny right to counsel under article 5 of the Federal Constitution for those called for questioning or interrogation,” he said.

He also said the case of “Datuk Hasanah Ab Hamid v MACC” that was quoted was also irrelevant.

“MACC’s references to Sosma and other laws that restrict access to legal counsel are equally nonsensical and irrelevant here,” he said.

He also said MACC did not address concerns regarding the selective treatment given to important public figures as opposed to the average individual.

“Nor does it address the unlawful acts of intimidation by its officers against lawyers by threatening to record their statements as well,” he said

He said MACC, as an enforcement agency enacted by the law, must ensure that they adhere to the Federal Constitution and the rule of law.

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