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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ex-airman moves to confront ‘torturers’ to strengthen freedom bid

SHAH ALAM, Oct 1 — Ex-airman Sergeant N. Tharmendran today applied to put his two “torturers” in the witness stand to support his bid to throw out his charges of stealing two F5-E jet engines.

Tharmendran’s lawyer Latheefa Koya told the High Court today that the cross-examination of his alleged torturers was crucial to determine the validity of his motion to drop the charges against him.

“If it is verified through cross-examination, then the testimony obtained there is very important for the substantial application, which is whether to get the charges dropped or suspended,” Latheefa said.

“The charges made by the applicant are very serious and directly affect the criminal procedure system in the country,” she added.

Tharmendran (picture) previously claimed to have been tortured by two “majors” who sought to force a confession that he had stolen the jet engines.

In a motion filed on July 16, Tharmendran sought for the charges against him to be thrown out on grounds that the authorities involved had specific intention to implicate him.

Latheefa pointed out that the affidavits filed by the two RMAF majors who denied torturing Tharmendran necessitated a cross-examination to reveal the truth.

“It is obvious that there are serious charges about torture on the applicant and bare denial from the persons who are alleged to do the torture,” said Latheefa.

“The truth can only be known if both deponents can be brought to court and cross-examined,” said the lawyer, referring to Major Norazan Md Amin and Major Ismail Omar who had filed the affidavits.

Latheefa also brought up another affidavit, filed by a witness on August 16, claiming that she saw Ismail abuse another detainee in front of her and Tharmendran.

“An affidavit by Intan Yusof showed Major Ismail’s actions... he pulled another detainee’s hair, twisted his head and then slapped him,” she said.

“It is important that the court verifies the charges,” she added.

Tharmendran’s other lawyer N. Surendran confirmed to reporters later that Intan — a 46-year-old businessman — was the new witness that he had mentioned in the High Court here on August 5.

“She is the one who saw the assault,” said the lawyer, referring to the abuse of the detainee mentioned by Latheefa.

Latheefa said that Intan claimed to have witnessed the alleged assault during her visit with the ex-airman in July last year, while he was in custody at the Sungai Besi air base.

“A friend of Tharmendran (Intan) and Tharmendran’s cousin visited him at the Sungai Besi air base in July 2009 when he was kept there,” she told reporters.

Tharmendran had alleged that about 30 to 40 others had been similarly tortured as he could hear their screams during his confinement at the air force base.

The 42-year-old ex-RMAF sergeant had said that he was made to wear a crash helmet and was hit with a cricket bat and a golf club three to four times a day.

He was also allegedly dragged, stripped down to his underwear, thrown into a freezing cold room and made to admit, repeatedly, that he was guilty.

Deputy public prosecutor Ishak Mohd Yusoff, however, urged the court to dismiss Tharmendran’s bid to cross-examine the two majors as his lawyers did not specify the areas of their intended cross-examination.

“The applicant was not specific in stating in his affidavit the areas that they want to cross-examine,” said Ishak.

“This can be categorised as a fishing expedition,” he added.

Ishak also pointed out that Tharmendran’s affidavit did not describe the confession that the two majors allegedly tried to force from him.

“It was not stated in his affidavit what was the confession that was extracted from him,” said Ishak.

“Without a confession, it will render his application to cross-examine... irrelevant because it is extraneous,” he added.

High Court Judge Datuk Asmabi Mohamad ruled that she needed to consider whether the court was empowered to grant Tharmendran’s application to cross-examine the two air force majors.

“I have to go back to the basic principle on whether I have the power. I need more time to do research,” she said.

Tharmendran and company director K. Rajandran Prasad were jointly charged in the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court on January 6 in connection with the theft of the missing F5-E jet engines.

Tharmendran is accused of stealing the engines in December 2007 at the Subang RMAF air base.

He was also charged with conspiring in the theft with senior airman Mohamad Shukri Mohamad Yusop at the material processing shed at the Sungai Besi RMAF base.

He was arrested on September 1 last year, and if convicted faces up to 10 years’ jail and a fine.

Rajandran is accused of disposing of the engines on April 30, 2008.

The theft was a major embarrassment to the government, following reports later that the country’s first submarine — KD Tunku Abdul Rahman — could not dive in tropical waters.

The prime minister had vowed that there would be no cover-up in the high-profile case which occurred during his tenure as defence minister while the current minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, had claimed that it had been an inside job.

The High Court judge fixed October 29 to hear her decision on the matter.

courtesy of Malaysian Insider

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