Malaysiakini Letter

Bond issue a challenge for media, judiciary

Dr Munawar A Anees, Los Angeles
Published:  |  Modified:

I refer to the malaysiakini report Abdul Razak freed on bail .

The news of Abdul Razak Baginda's court bond of RM1 million - without security - must have come as a rude shock to many who expected the unfolding of a murder trial that would have seen to be fair. That expectation was justified after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's assurance that the culprits in this heinous crime would be brought to justice.

People are not proficient in legalese but media reports inevitably reinforce opinions. In this case, the reported grounds for releasing a person charged with abetting a murder and facing the death penalty is bound to raise suspicion.

'Bronchitis' and 'asthma' were said to be the basis for the bond. These are not the type of ailments for which a Malaysian prison or a common hospital cannot provide adequate treatment. These are not the type of ailments that necessitate a person's evacuation from prison. On the other hand, all prisoners have the right to demand and receive appropriate medical care during their incarceration.

Legal precedents for allowing bond for someone charged with murder abetment and similar non-bailable offences have been cited in the media as much as the role of judicial prerogatives in such cases.

However, the legal treatment meted out to Anwar Ibrahim for the alleged offences of corruption and sodomy fails to substantiate these pious statements. He was brutally beaten by the then inspector-general of police resulting in severe spinal injuries. Photographs of his heavily bruised and bleeding face are among the permanent exhibits on the Internet. The offences for which he was charged were bailable. Yet, Anwar Ibrahim failed to receive a bail much less a bond! Does the judicial discretion in Malaysia override the legal provision too?

During my own 126-day confinement after police torture and a consequent heart attack, I was kept round-the-clock handcuffed to my hospital bed with prison guards keeping a non-stop watch upon me. One wonders about the judicial conduct in Malaysia where a murder abettor with no evidence of police torture and a 'not-guilty plea' goes scot-free without even paying a ringgit for bond money while a tortured heart sufferer was kept handcuffed inside the hospital for months!

Dr Shaariibuu Shefev, father of Altantuya Shaariibuu, the Mongolian woman who was brutally murdered and her body blown up by C4 explosives, has complained about the unseemly treatment given to her by the Malaysian media. Moreover, before leaving Kuala Lumpur, while expressing shock over Abdul Razak's bond, he was reported to have said that there was little concern about his daughter's tragic fate. He made a poignant statement on keeping alive the memory of his beloved daughter by referring this case to international fora and making a documentary on Altantuya's life.

The judicial quarter and the media in Malaysia are facing a challenge of integrity in Altantuya's murder and Razak's bond for 'bronchitis'. They must dispel the notion that preferential justice prevails in Malaysia. Moreover, the reputation of Malaysian hospitals seems to be at stake for not being able to treat common ailments.

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