Kuala Lumpur: Five lawyers and an activist on Wednesday won a civil dispute against the police and government over their arrest and detention during a walk to mark the World Human Rights Day in December 2007.
High Court judge Justice John Louis O`Hara held that the arrests of R Sivarasa, N Surendran, Latheefa Beebi Koya, Eric Paulsen, Amer Hamzah Arshad and activist Johny Andu and their subsequent detention by the police were unlawful.
"I had the opportunity to view video recording and observed the photographic evidence which provided a pictorial enactment of what had actually transpired during the walk," the judge was quoted by the Star as saying.
Justice O`Hara said police had given conflicting, confusing and contradictory instructions to the plaintiffs, who were among the participants, when they asked them to disperse within 10 minutes.
He said the order gave the impression that the participants had 10 minutes to disperse, but they were arrested before they could do so.
On December 8, 2010, the lawyers and the activist filed the lawsuit against the police, Inspector-General of Police, Home Ministry and the government over claims for wrongful arrest, wrongful detention and malicious prosecution.
Justice O`Hara ruled that the six were also denied of their right to legal representation.
On December 10, 2007, the six were charged for taking part in an unlawful assembly and failing to adhere to police orders to disperse, allegedly committed a day before (December 9, 2007).
On April 16, 2009, they were freed by a Sessions Court without entering a defence.
The judge awarded RM 60,000 (almost 12 lakh rupees) in damages for the five lawyers and the activist and RM 5,454 in special damages for Paulsen for his flight tickets from South Africa to appear for the 15-day trial.
He also ordered the defendants to pay 5 per cent in interest for general and special damages from the date of judgement to its full settlement.
The judge directed the defendants to pay RM 60,000 in costs.
O`Hara made the order after hearing evidence from 19 witnesses during the trial.
Speaking to reporters here, lead counsel Edmund Bon said it was a great victory for democracy and human rights. The suit was filed to uphold freedom of assembly and not for money, he said.