Lawyer ready to prove in court rape allegations linked to Bersatu members

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A lawyer is ready to prove in court allegations linked to his client’s purported rape involving two Bersatu members and the police’s purported lack of action in the matter.

Asheeq Ali Sethi Alivi raised the defence of justification in his statement of defence against Gombak Setia assemblyperson Muhammad Hilman Idham’s defamation suit.

In relation to the law on a civil suit for defamation, justification is a defence that the statements or allegations are true, and if proven successful in court, would act as an absolute defence against the legal action.

Bersatu member Hilman is suing Asheeq for defamation over the latter’s press conference on Aug 11 last year.

On that date, the media reported Asheeq claiming the police had yet to act on his client’s report alleging she was raped by two men with purported links to Hilman, who is the Gombak Bersatu youth chief.

It was previously reported that the woman submitted alleged evidence to the police over the purported incident.

In Asheeq’s statement of defence filed at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court on Jan 20 and sighted by Malaysiakini, the lawyer contended that the statement he made during the media briefing is “true in substance and facts”.

The defendant said the press conference was held in his capacity as advocate and solicitor for the alleged rape victim, who lodged a police report over the purported rape incident on her birthday, namely on Dec 5, 2020.

“Until the date of the press conference, which was eight months from the date of the first police report (lodged on Dec 5, 2020), there was nobody charged in court (over the alleged rape),” Asheeq contended.

The lawyer pointed out that an alleged perpetrator of the rape was only charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court on Sept 9, 2021. (The defamation suit was over the press conference held earlier on Aug 11 that same year)

“The defendant will prove one by one the (alleged) facts pleaded (in the statement of defence) in the upcoming (court) hearing (of Hilman’s defamation suit),” Asheeq contended.

Meanwhile, citing the defence of qualified privilege, the defendant said he has a legal and moral duty to highlight the issue of his client’s alleged rape.

Asheeq claimed that the matter is of public interest as the two alleged perpetrators were not only members of a ruling political party, but also purported associates of Hilman.

Asheeq contended that his statement during the press conference was issued out of duty under the law to obtain justice for his client.

Under the law for a defamation action, qualified privilege is a defence that applies in a situation where the words were issued by a person who has an interest or a legal, social or moral duty to do so.

Asheeq also contended that the issue has become public interest last year, allegedly following a third party having spread online the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) video of the purported incident.

“Therefore, the defendant (Asheeq) pleads that the (alleged) rape incident has become public interest as it received public attention and involves members of the ruling political party,” the lawyer claimed.

Asheeq contended that this is because Hilman and the latter’s alleged associates were active in politics and also purportedly have links to International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali.

Azmin is Bersatu’s Gombak parliamentary representative.

Besides being Azmin’s political secretary, Hilman is also Perikatan Nasional Youth information chief.

“The PDRM’s (Royal Malaysian Police) delay for over eight months (as of Aug 11 last year) to take action against the perpetrator named in the defendant’s client’s police report, have also triggered public unease and received attention from many people.

“On the above reasons, the defendant humbly pleads that the defendant has a legal responsibility to issue the statement to obtain justice for the defendant’s client and defend the defendant’s client.

“The defendant further pleads that the defendant has a moral and social duty to issue the statement to give transparent information to members of the public who already know about the rape incident that befell the defendant’s client,” Asheeq contended.

The lawyer also cites the defence of fair comment in relation to the statements he made during the press conference.

The defence of fair comment is one where the impugned statement was made as fair comment (rather than as a statement of fact) over an issue of public interest.

Checks on the online cause list showed that the lawsuit is fixed for case management before the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court on Feb 8.

On Dec 12 last year, Hilman’s counsel from law firm Hafiz Ruzaini & Co filed the civil action.

Through the suit’s statement of claim, the lawmaker alleged that Asheeq made a defamatory statement during the media briefing held in front of the Bukit Aman police headquarters, on Aug 11 last year.

The plaintiff won the Gombak Setia state seat in Selangor on a Pakatan Harapan ticket during the 14th general election on May 9, 2018.

However, Hilman later crossed over from Harapan to PN when he left PKR for Bersatu. He previously held the post of PKR Youth deputy chief.

Asheeq, who is currently a PKR member, is represented by lawyers from law firm Karpal Singh & Co. – Malaysiakini