Lawyer Manjeet Singh Dhillon told the High Court today that two of his clients were coerced by the police to sign prepared statements while in detention to implicate sacked deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim of sexual misconduct.
Manjeet, who represented Anwar's former tennis partner S. Nallakarupan and speech writer Munawar Anees said that his first client, Nallakarupan, told him that the police threatened him and asked him to sign statements that were already prepared for him (Nalakarupan).
"I was instructed by my client that short of lying, he could not sign those statements. The police told my client that he would be hanged under the Internal Security Act and nobody would be able to save him, unless he agreed with the police," Manjeet said.
Nallakarupan was arrested on July 31, 1998, held incommunicado for 14 days and then charged in court for illegal possession of bullets at his house under the ISA which carried a mandatory death sentence.
Asked by lead defence counsel Christopher Fernando as to what the police wanted Nallakarupan to do, in regard to Anwar, Manjeet replied, "Basically to become a witness for them (police), give evidence against Anwar, to agree with the statements they prepared and laid before him, and to play ball with them (to cooperate with the police)."
He added that the police employed "classic interrogation techniques" to break down Nallakarupan's will.
"They humiliated, threatened, and kept on bringing his family into it. The police wanted my client to lie depicting Anwar, involving women. From my client's instructions, these women were non-existent," Manjeet replied.
Manjeet also told High Court judge Arifin Jaka that he met deputy public prosecutor Abdul Gani Patail and later the Attorney-General Mohtar Abdullah in the AG's Chambers in 1998.
"The meetings came about after I reviewed the facts revolving around Nallakarupan's arrest and it was clear to me that it was not an ISA offence. I wrote a letter to the AG and I supplied him with documentary evidence which indicated that the most appropriate law applicable was the Firearms Act," Manjeet said.
He added that the response to the letter came from Gani who asked to see him at the AG' s Chambers on Oct 2, 1998.
"What transpired at the meeting was the blatant attempt by Gani to extort and blackmail evidence out of a man by using the man's life as a bargaining chip," Manjeet said, to which deputy public prosecutor Mohd. Yussuf Zainal Abidin raised an objection.
Manjeet however told the judge, "In my 30 years in this profession, I can tell what the DPP (Gani) was trying to do. It was disgraceful!"
Anwar at this point turned back to the public gallery and gave his thumbs up.
"In a nutshell, what Gani wanted to do was for Nallakarupan to give them evidence which in so far as Nallakarupan was concerned did not exist," Manjeet added.
He told the court that Gani told him that they were looking into matters on behalf of the prime minister and that he wanted evidence from Nallakarupan "concerning women".
"In the case of mentioning that fact, he (Gani) moved in numbers. He couldn't decide exactly on how many women. The number started from two, three and finally he settled at five," Manjeet said.
Asked what his response was to Gani, Manjeet said, "My response was that as of a lawyer. I said: If this is your request I would refer this back to my client."
Manjeet added that he later wrote to the AG on Oct 12, 1998.
"I was very disturbed by what had happened (at the meeting with Gani) and I had two options. One, to lodge a police report, and the other to write to the senior law officer of the country. I chose to do the second.
"The letter was in the form of a complaint of a direct allegation of moral corruption in the AG's Chambers," Manjeet said, adding that he was asked to meet the AG the next day.
He also told the court that until to date, there has been no reply to his letter and the allegations have not been refuted.
"As far as I know, no action has been taken against the officer named in my letter," Manjeet said.
Asked by Arifin what was the relevance of all this evidence to Anwar in this trial, Manjeet said, "the relevance to Anwar is the fact that in the 45 minutes I met with AG, nothing was discussed about my letter, with regard to the serious allegation I made against Gani.
"At the end of the discussion, the AG said: If the section was changed, what will your client do? I told him my client would plea guilty if the section was changed under the right section of the law," Manjeet said.
Manjeet also told the court that his other client, Munawar was forced to fabricate evidence against Anwar in regard to sodomy.
"They wanted Munawar to both implicate Anwar in sodomising him and being sodomised. They wanted him to lie."
Munawar, also an internationally-known scholar, was arrested under ISA on Sept 14, 1998 and was also held incommunicado until he was produced in court and pleaded guilty to being sodomised by Anwar. He, however, filed an affidavit in court given details of being subjected to torture.
Asked by Fernando what the police did in their attempt to extort information from Munawar, Manjeet replied, "Again, the police used special classical techniques which they expanded upon his thought."
"Over a period of five days of intensive non-stop interrogation bordering on hallucinatory experiences, the police made Munawar change from a man who had no sexual connection with Anwar to a man who was prepared to agree to anything to save himself from being destroyed mentally," he said.
Questioned further, Manjeet said, "It took me nearly two months talking to Munawar. For a man whose academic is longer than my arm, he couldn't say a single sentence consistently. Even till today, the man is not the same anymore.
"They made him simulate sexual acts. They made him lie on the floor and pretend he was having sex with Anwar."
At this point, judge Arifin interrupted and questioned the relevancy of the evidence.
Fernando then attempted to adduce evidence pertaining to a statutory declaration signed by Munawar.
Arifin and Fernando then argued over the relevancy of this statutory declaration.
Arifin ruled it not relevant before Fernando could submit on the points of the relevance of the statutory declaration in 1998.
Arifin: I have made a ruling. Not relevant to this trial.
Fernando: You are wrong. There's a lot more here. I have the right to submit. I have not finished my submission. I must be allowed to finish my submission. You cannot make a ruling.
Arifin: If you go against me after I have made a ruling, I will charge you for contempt of court.
Fernando: Don't threaten me. I have my rights here.
Arifin later adjourned the trial to tomorrow morning, saying that he was tired. The defence is expected to continue with Manjeet's testimony tomorrow.