Witness in riot trial quizzed for not reporting IC incident

No police report was lodged against Keadilan leader Azmin Ali for allegedly demanding for the identity cards of bus drivers and passengers who were stopped on their way to the Lunas by-election in 2000, the Magistrates' Court in Kulim, Kedah, heard yesterday.

Azmin's legal counsel Pravan Singh said that, the act of demanding ICs from anyone is a "crucial act", yet the witness under cross-examination, S Murugesan, had not included this alleged act by Azmin in the report he lodged against the opposition leader on Nov 29, 2000.

In reply, Murugesan said he omitted that detail as his driving motive then was to report the tense situation and violence around him.

Murugesan, a lawyer and Selangor MIC youth leader, denied that his bringing up of that detail now, in court, was "an afterthought".

He was testifying in the trial against 10 opposition leaders and members who had allegedly participated in an illegal assembly with the intention to riot, and wrongfully confining scores of bus drivers and passengers.

In the dock were Azmin, who is Hulu Kelang state assembly representative, Keadilan vice-president Tian Chua, Youth chief Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor, Information chief Ruslan Kasim, supreme council member N Gobalakrishnan, Kedah Keadilan youth secretary Zamil Ibrahim, Taman Sejahtera Lunas PAS Youth chief Ahmad Khairudin Jamaluddin, Sungai Petani PAS Youth committee member Mohd Khairi Yahya, Kota Kuala Muda PAS committee member Mohd Fauzi Awang Kechik and PAS volunteer Khairul Nizar Ismail.
Tian was brought to the court from the Kamunting Detention Centre where he is undergoing a two-year detention under the Internal Security Act.

Similarly, Ezam too was brought from Kajang prison where he is undergoing a two-year sentence after being found guilty of committing an offence under the Official Secrets Act early this month. Prior to that, he was in Kamunting undergoung a two-year ISA detention.

When asked how Murugesan could conclusively identify those who stopped the buses to be Keadilan supporters, Murugesan said he knew them from the tags that they wore, which had the party logo.
However, Pravan disputed Murugesan's assumption that they were Keadilan people simply because they were wearing the party tags.

No one injured
To another question, Murugesan said none of the passengers had been injured or beaten up.
The day before, he had alleged in court that the group who detained the buses carried sticks, cameras and helmets.

Later, Pravan inferred that the buses were directed to the police station because they ferried phantom voters.
"If they are not phantom voters, why do they have to come on polling day?" Pravan asked.

To that, Murugesan said his movement, MIC Selangor, brought along supporters to Lunas to give their fellow Barisan Nasional member candidate "moral support".

Magistrate Rosnani Saud* presided over the case while DPP Hashim Hamzah prosecuted. Besides Pravan, Md Yunos Shariff, Cheah Kah Peng and Gooi Hock Seng were the legal counsel for the 10.

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