Malaysian rights group Lawyers for Liberty files motion in KL High Court against Shanmugam over correction direction

Malaysian rights group Lawyers for Liberty files motion in KL High Court against Shanmugam over correction direction

(aw) LFL plaintiffs
From left: Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) Director Melissa Sasidaran, LFL Advisor N Surendran and their counsels Gurdial Singh Nijar and Ambiga Sreenevasan. (Photo: D Kanyakumari)

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian human rights group accusing Changi Prison of brutal execution methods has filed a motion in the Kuala Lumpur High Court against Singapore’s Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, following the issuance of a correction direction by the POFMA (Protection From Online Falsehoods And Manipulation Act) Office.

The civil suit, which was filed on Friday (Jan 24), seeks a declaration from the High Court indicating that Mr Shanmugam cannot take action against Lawyers of Liberty (LFL) in Malaysia under POFMA.

Speaking to media after the motion was filed, LFL adviser N Surendran said: "The reason for the lawsuit is because this is an attempt by Singapore to encroach upon or crackdown on freedom of speech in Malaysia.

"(Singapore wants) to reach out its tentacles and impose its own oppressive fake news act on Malaysians and they’re trying to impose it on us."

The lawsuit is filed by LFL, the group’s director Melissa Sasidaran as well as Mr Surendran.

READ: Singapore defends online falsehoods law in response to articles by SCMP, Bloomberg

Mr Gurdial Singh Nijar, who is among the counsels representing the group, reiterated that Singapore cannot simply extend its laws to Malaysian citizens.

He noted that if LFL does not issue a correction notice, it could face imprisonment under POFMA.

"Our clients are at risk ... You’re preventing Malaysians from exercising their rights which is granted by the constitution here. Singapore is looking to enforce what our government has repealed," he added, referring to how Putrajaya has scraped a law penalising fake news.

On Jan 16, LFL released a press statement alleging brutal execution methods at Singapore's Changi Prison.

changi prison entrance gate
The entrance gate of Changi Prison. (File photo: Singapore Prison Service)

In its statement, it alleged that prison officers were instructed to "pull the rope around the neck of the prisoner towards him" and "kick the back of the neck of the prisoner with great force in order to break it", whenever the rope broke during a hanging.

The group was subsequently issued a correction direction by the POFMA office, along with three other parties for spreading the allegations.

Calling the allegations "entirely unfounded", Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Wednesday that the executions are done in strict compliance with the law.

"For the record, the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any 'special training to carry out the brutal execution method' as alleged," said MHA.

"Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with."

READ: Yahoo Singapore adds correction notice to Facebook post about Malaysian group's claims of 'brutal' executions

LFL said it would not comply with the correction direction, while standing by its claims that prisoners on death row at Changi Prison are executed brutally.

"We decline to challenge the order in Singapore courts because Singapore has no jurisdiction over us," Mr Surendran then told CNA.

BLOCKING OF WEBSITE A DISAPPOINTING DECISION, SAYS LFL

On Thursday, the Infocomm Media Development Authority was directed to issue access blocking orders for LFL’s website.

The orders mean Internet access service providers will have to disable access for users in Singapore to LFL's website.

A Malaysian human rights group said on Wednesday (Jan 22) it would “absolutely stand by” its claims that prisoners on death row in Changi prison are executed brutally, adding that it will not comply with a correction direction issued by Singapore's POFMA (Protection From Online Falsehoods And Manipulation Act) Office. 

Mr Surendran said on Friday that it was a “disappointing” decision.

“It seems to me that the Singapore Government is more interested in silencing us and keeping the lid on the truth about the method of execution in Changi Prison rather than getting to the truth about what is happening and take action,” he said.

He also claimed that another prison officer, who is currently in service, has since come forward to corroborate the allegations. However, he said LFL will continue to keep the identities of the officers a secret so that they would not face legal action.

“Our sources are impeccable. We have every reason to believe there is truth to these allegations and it is incumbent on Singapore to conduct an inquiry and put a stop to this practice,” he said.

Source: CNA/aw(rw)

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