Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia’s inspector general of police.

© 2017 Reuters

(Kuala Lumpur) – Malaysian authorities on May 2, 2017, detained without charge two Turkish nationals who are longtime Kuala Lumpur residents, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should provide the basis for holding the men – Turgay Karaman, the principal of Time International School in Ipoh, and Ihsan Aslan, a Kuala Lumpur-based businessman – and allow them full access to legal counsel and contact with their families.

On May 3, Malaysia’s inspector general of police, Khalid Abu Bakar, tweeted that police were holding the men on suspicion of national security offenses under article 130 of Malaysia’s penal code, relating to harboring or assisting a “prisoner of State.” But at a news conference the next day, Khalid said the two were being held under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA), an administrative detention law.

“Malaysian authorities should explain why they are holding two longtime residents of Malaysia without charge on security grounds,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Malaysia’s administrative detention laws open the doors to easy abuse, so it’s important for the government to provide the men’s location and to allow them immediate access to their families and legal counsel.”

SOSMA allows the police to detain people for up to 28 days without charge or judicial review to investigate “security offenses.”

Article 130 of the Malaysian penal code states:

Whoever knowingly aids or assists any prisoner of State or prisoner of war in escaping from lawful custody, or rescues or attempts to rescue any such prisoner, or harbours or conceals any such prisoner who has escaped from lawful custody, or offers or attempts to offer any resistance to the recapture of such prisoner, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Malaysia’s administrative detention laws open the doors to easy abuse.

Phil Robertson

Deputy Asia Director

Turkish media reports suggested that Karaman and Aslan have alleged links to Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of masterminding the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. However, Malaysian authorities, including Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Khalid, alleged that the men were connected to the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) but did not provide any evidence to substantiate that claim. Khalid denied that Malaysia had received any extradition or other request from Turkey for the two men.

On October 14, 2016, the Turkish foreign minister announced that the previous day the Malaysian authorities had extradited to Turkey three men with alleged Gülenist affiliations.

Two of the families of the three men said at the time that witnesses had seen them taken away by unidentified men on the day of their extradition to Turkey. Human Rights Watch does not have information about their treatment upon return to Turkey but is concerned that they were detained on suspicion of terrorism offenses without adequate due process.

Since the attempted coup, Turkish courts have placed over 47,000 people in pretrial detention. The majority face terrorism charges based on their alleged links to the Gülenist movement and many have been held in prolonged detention without due process or credible evidence of personal criminal wrongdoing. Others have been held because of alleged ties to Kurdish armed groups.

Among those detained in Turkey are military personnel, police officers, civil servants, teachers, academics, businessmen, judges, and prosecutors. Some of those held have alleged that they were subjected to torture or other ill-treatment by the police and have excessive restrictions on visits by family members, receiving and sending letters, and having private communication with lawyers. Their detention conditions may amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in violation of international law.

“Malaysia’s kneejerk use of SOSMA highlights the dangers of allowing detention without judicial review, not just to foreign residents, but to all Malaysians,” Robertson said. “The authorities should release these men from custody if they haven’t charged them with a credible offense.”