Indigenous rights pressure groups today demanded the dismissal of charges against activist Jannie Lasimbang for organising the Bersih 4 rally in Sabah, after the same charge against Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah was struck out by the Court of Appeal this month.
Lasimbang was charged with breaching the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 by failing to give authorities a 10-day notice before the rally in Kota Kinabalu on Aug 29 and 30, 2015.
The Kota Kinabalu Magistrate Court was due to deliver the verdict in the former Suhakam commissioner's case tomorrow, but the matter has been rescheduled to a later date.
“We believe the charges were meant to sanction Lasimbang’s legitimate human rights actions,” said Yusri Ahon, President of Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (Joas).
“With the welcome decision on Chin’s case, we demand that the unconstitutional charges laid on her also be struck out and are hopeful on this,” he said.
'Form of harassment'
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), which sent out a joint petition to call for Lasimbang's charges to be dropped, said the "unjust trials" were a form of harassment.
“Malaysia has international obligations to protect human rights," said AIPP secretary-general Joan Carling in a statement.
On Sept 14, the Court of Appeal quashed charges against Maria for failing to give authorities a 10-day notice before the Bersih 4 rally which kicked off on Aug 29, 2015.
A three-person bench chaired by Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat held that there were merits to allow her appeal to set aside a High Court refusal to strike out the charge.
She said any law including court judgments could not be applied retrospectively. Presiding with her were justices Ahmadi Asnawi and Kamardin Hashim.
With this decision, Chin, 60, will not face a trial on that charge at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court.
Maria's counsel M Puravelan argued at the time of the alleged offence, the Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad case which declared unconstitutional Section 9 (5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act that penalised organisers of a rally if they failed to notify the police, was still an applicable law.
Puravelan said it was only on Oct 1, last year, another panel of the Court of Appeal in the R Yuneswaran case decided not to follow the Nik Nazmi decision and had ruled that Section 9 (5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act was constitutional.