Lawyers not confident new task force able to identify culprits who caused Adib’s death

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Putrajaya’s new task force to identify the culprits of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim’s death is unlikely to succeed, said lawyers, noting that prior investigations had already exhausted all leads.

By all means, the case can be reviewed, human rights lawyers Andrew Khoo and M Visvanathan said, but also questioned why no such effort was made for other controversial deaths as well as disappearances.

“If the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers after all this time cannot identify any potential culprits, I am not sure the task force can,” Khoo told The Malaysian Insight.

“At best, the task force may be able to identify weaknesses and shortcomings in the investigations and the inquest, and suggest improvements to internal procedures.”

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the cabinet had agreed to the formation of a special committee to ensure a thorough, transparent and proper investigation into Adib’s death, which has been a political hot button, especially for Malay parties like Umno and PAS.

Adib, an emergency medical rescue services member of the Subang Jaya Fire and Rescue station sustained serious injuries during a riot outside the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in USJ 25, Subang Jaya on November 27, 2018.

He died 21 days later, on December 17, at the National Heart Institute.

A coroner’s inquest into his death ruled on September 27, 2019, that Adib’s death was due to a criminal act perpetrated by more than two unidentified individuals.

In August last year, the police proposed a second inquest because new witnesses had come forward, Khoo pointed out.

“We’d have to question why these witnesses could not have been identified earlier.

“The police also suggested charging 12 people, but only for illegal assembly. That does not offer any development in terms of justice for Adib and his family,” Khoo added.

Despite this, Khoo said the announcement of a task force showed that the search for the truth must not be time-bound.

He added that a similar kind of task force was formed consequent to the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah by the police in 2010.

“Their findings were never made public,” Khoo said.

Visvanathan, meanwhile, said this task force for Adib’s case set a bad precedent under the law.

“Now every other family will want one,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“It is not something that is provided for in the law. It is not in the criminal procedure code (CPC).

“Therefore, it is tantamount to usurping the powers of the authorities that are given the powers to investigate under the CPC,” he said.

But under Section 339 of the CPC, the attorney-general has the power to instruct the coroner to continue the inquest, Visvanathan added.

“This is if the police obtain new witnesses and new evidence.

Ahmad Zamzahuri

“Alternatively, the AG can go to the high court to argue in a revision that the coroner came up with a wrongful verdict not based on the available evidence,” he said.

Visvanathan personally believes the case was wrongly decided by the coroner.

“It was not based on the best evidence rule. An expert’s view (who did not do the post-mortem) cannot be the view that the coroner accepts as to the cause of death,” he said.

The coroner’s inquest saw contradictory evidence being presented by different forensic pathologists.

There were also differing accounts of how Adib was injured, with one version alleging that he was pulled out of his vehicle and beaten by rioters, while the other holds that he was outside the vehicle and hit by a reversing fire truck.

Both Visvanathan and Khoo questioned why nothing was being done about other controversial cases involving political aide Teoh Beng Hock and activists Raymond Koh and Amir Che Mat.

Visvanathan added that the new task force for Adib “is a farce”.

Teoh, a 30-year-old aide to a Selangor DAP assemblyman, was found dead in 2009 at Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam, hours after he was interrogated by Selangor Malaysian-Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) in the same building. He allegedly fell to his death during the prolonged interrogation overspending of funds by his boss.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry into his death concluded that he committed suicide as a result of aggressive interrogation by MACC officers. Teoh’s family has refused to accept the RCI’s conclusion and has demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

Koh, meanwhile, was a pastor who has been missing since early 2017. An inquiry by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is of the view that he was a victim of enforced disappearance at the hands of the police’s Special Branch.

Amri, a social activist from Perlis, is also considered a victim of enforced disappearance following his abduction in November 2016. – TMI