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Malaysia court says anti-corruption officers may be linked to DAP aide's death

Malaysia's s Court of Appeal has overturned the open verdict ruling on the death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock, who fell from the 14th floor of a building in 2009.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's second-highest court ruled on Friday (Sep 5) that officers from the nation's Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) may have been linked to the death of an opposition political aide.

In 2009, 30-year-old Teoh Beng Hock was found dead after falling from the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam, which formerly housed the Selangor office of the MACC. Teoh, a Democratic Action Party (DAP) aide, had reportedly been called in for questioning by the Commission as a witness in a corruption probe.

He was later found sprawled on the fifth floor landing of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam on the morning of Jul 16, 2009. After the Coroner's Court handed down the open verdict decision, Teoh's elder brother, Meng Kee, filed an application to the High Court to have that decision reviewed. However, the High Court in Shah Alam rejected his Meng Kee's review application on Dec 1, 2011.

On Friday, however, the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling, stating that Teoh's death was "accelerated by an unlawful act or acts of persons unknown, inclusive of the MACC officers who were involved in the arrest and investigations of the deceased".

IT WAS A CUSTODIAL DEATH: PANEL MEMBER

The three-man panel - Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, Justice Mah Weng Kwai and Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer - was unanimous in its decision and called for a further probe into the death that would include officers of the MACC. The panel also ordered the open verdict decision of the Coroner's Court and the Shah Alam High Court's dismissal of the review application to be set aside.

Justice Mah, in his ruling, said that Teoh's was a custodial death while under the detention of MACC officers. The DAP aide was called to the MACC office as a witness and subjected to questioning until the early hours of the morning, which clearly showed that his rights had been violated.

On the possibility of Teoh having committed suicide, Justice Mah ruled that out, saying the handwriting on a suicide note alleged to have been Teoh's could not be verified by an expert. His conduct prior to the incident also clearly showed that he was in a right frame of mind and was busy making arrangements for his wedding, he said.
Justice Mah also referred extensively to the views of two experts - Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand and Dr Peter Venezis - in ruling out suicide as a possibility of death, as suggested by the counsel representing the MACC. He referred to the views of experts Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand and Dr Peter Venezis in the notes of the inquest that Teoh might have been strangled by someone based on the injuries on his neck.

On whether Teoh might have been strangled by someone based on his neck injuries, Justice Mah said: "This might have resulted in him losing consciousness, and both experts believe he was still alive when he fell from the 14th floor of the building, and I agree with them."

He also questioned the conduct of the MACC officers who had interrogated Teoh, and urged police to carry out further investigation on who actually harmed the victim. Justice Mah also urged police not to exclude all MACC officers who were last seen with Teoh.

Commenting on the ruling, Teoh's family lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said after court: "As a lawyer, I think justice has been served. Of course, at the end of the day, it's for the IGP and the Attorney-General to do the needful to make sure those responsible are arrested, investigated and brought to justice as soon as possible."

MACC has acknowledged and accepted the court's ruling on the case. It said it would leave it to the police to carry out their investigations and the attorney general to make the final decision whether to charge any parties involved. It would also give its full cooperation to ensure justice is served and hopes for a swift resolution to the situation. 

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