KUALA LUMPUR: Hundreds of criminals, including hardcore gangsters and terrorists, will have to be freed if the government abolishes the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
These individuals, many of whom have yet to be deradicalised, had been put under the “detention orders” under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) and Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota).
A highly-placed source told the New Straits Times that abolishing the law would also make it even tougher for the authorities to gather evidence as they would no longer be able to make use of statements of protected witnesses.
“This is among the provisions (allowing statements of protected witnesses to be used) that is much needed.
“If not, no one would be willing to come forward to be a witness, especially when it involves gangsters,” the source said.
Mohamed Hanipa Maidin
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin had said that the Attorney-General was considering amending the charges against 442 people remanded under Sosma.
A total of 42 men — accused of being members of organised crime group “Geng 360 Devan” — had already had their charges converted from Sosma to Section 43 of the Societies Act 1966, which provided lighter sentences.
Under the amended charge, the suspects faced a maximum of three years’ imprisonment or RM5,000 fine, or both, for being members of an unlawful society.
They were previously charged for being members of an organised criminal group and could have been jailed between five years and 20 years if found guilty.
Data from the Police’s Criminal Investigation Department and the Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division showed that more than 800 individuals were placed under Sosma since 2013.
Of the total, 420 were arrested for their involvement in terrorism or extremism activities while others were alleged to be members of various organised criminal groups or consorting with or assisting such groups.
The NST was told that there were close to 100 alleged terrorists who had their case investigated under Sosma and would soon be released if the law was repealed.
“Their arrests were made under Sosma but since there were insufficient evidence to charge them, the cases were converted under Poca or Pota which allow for ‘detention orders’ and police supervision.
“Their cases were converted to Pota because the authorities lacked documentation (as evidence) but they have witnesses or statements given by the accomplices,” the source added.
Attorney-General Tommy Thomas had said that the law would be abolished in a matter of time.
Meanwhile, former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said detainees who have yet to be convicted would also be set free.
Those who were convicted, however, could appeal to the court for their release, he added.
“Of course, all of them will have to be released, similar to when they repeal ISA, Emergency Ordinance and other preventive laws previously.
“A convicted person cannot be released unless there is an appeal to the court of law to say that the charges were done in bad faith or there was a miscarriage of justice,” he told NST.
Triad members held under Sosma in Shah Alam last week. FILE PIC
Musa, who opposed the
proposed abolishment of Sosma, said the said law was needed as the country was still facing threats from extremist groups and organised criminal groups.
“In my opinion, we should not (abolish the law) as we are still facing security threats from terrorist and extremist groups, and organised violence by syndicated criminal groups that could affect the peace and safety of the public and the nation,” he said.
Sosma, which was introduced in 2012, has been condemned by many as it is said to have been used as a tool to silence opposition party leaders and critics.
Commenting on this, Musa however, said politicians should also be punished for undermining the nation’s security.
“If the politicians are involved in any way that could be a threat to the national security, then they should be subjected to the same law.
“They (politicians) are not immune to any law. In fact, most problems faced in the world is normally caused by the politicians.
“If they feel that authorities is abusing the law or acted in bad faith, they could take action under the civil or criminal laws. You don’t have to repeal the act.”
Federal Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division principal assistant director Deputy Commissioner Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay had said that Sosma had been instrumental in assisting law enforcement agencies as it allowed them to conduct disruptive operations and prevent potential attacks.
The police, however, would abide by any decision by Putrajaya on whether to amend or to abolish the act, he added.
Sosma was introduced as an anti-terrorism law to help maintain public order and address terrorism threats and violent conduct in the country.
Under the law, a police officer may, without a warrant of arrest, detain any person that is believed to be involved in security offences.
They then would have 28 days at most to bring the case to
court or the person should be released. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd