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Monday, July 30, 2012

Teacher says cops stormed hotel to arrest Bersih protesters

KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Policemen barged into Swiss Inn Hotel here and dragged out Bersih supporters after rounds of water cannon and tear gas were fired on April 28, the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) inquiry into the Bersih rally was told today. 
Goh Ban Huat, a teacher from Cheras, said he was told that Bersih chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan would be at the hotel to give a speech, and he joined the crowd heading there.
“When I reached there, I heard someone shout that the rally was a success and an order to disperse followed after that. 
“Suddenly, the crowd was treated to rounds of tear gas and water cannons, forcing the crowd to retreat, a huge number cramming themselves into Swiss Inn,” Goh said.
The teacher alleged the police kicked open the hotel door and began arresting people.
“The policemen yelled ‘catch them, catch them all’,” he added.
Goh also said he did not see any demonstrator trying to breach the barriers to get into Dataran Merdeka nor did they show any intention of doing so at any point.
Goh sustained minor injuries after he was kicked and punched by policemen prior to the firing of tear gas.
He said he was taken to the Jalan Semarak Police Training Centre (Pulapol).
“Policemen at the rally looked like they enjoyed hitting demonstrators on the scene.
“The policemen were good to me at Pulapol.
“I was offered medical treatment but I refused as my injuries were not serious,” he said.
A second witness, Nasir Ghani, 39, an assistant manager at the Cahaya Suria A&W restaurant, said policemen barged into the premises and interrogated customers who were having their meals there after the rally.
“Policemen, some in plainclothes and some in blue uniform, came into the outlet after my staff unlocked the door to let them in.
“I initially locked the doors so no one would barge in and disrupt my business.
“I did not see anything wrong happening but one of the officers was holding a yellow T-shirt when they left the premises,” he said.
He claimed that he was not aware of any violent acts by the policemen as he was focused on his duties as a store manager, despite being at the counter when the police entered the premises.
He also said the police did not ask to see the person-in-charge nor did he ask the police the reason for their presence on the premises.
The inquiry, which began on July 5, is aimed at determining whether any violations of human rights were committed against any person or party during and after the April 28 gathering.
The inquiry panel, led by Suhakam vice-chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee and aided by commissioners Professor Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid and Detta Samen, will be interviewing some 22 witnesses over a period of 22 days.
The inquiry continues on August 1.

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