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Families of arrested Tamils in Malaysia receive threats, amidst claims of torture

Tamil activists arrested by Malaysian authorities have complained of mistreatment, torture and intimidation from security forces, which includes forced confessions and threats to their families.

A lawyer for one of the arrested men, 57-year-old grocery store owner B Subramaniam, said “during the arrest and subsequent detention for 21 days, he was tortured and forced to say ‘I am an LTTE member’”.

“He faced all sorts of threats, including a threat that he would be sent to prison for life if he didn’t do this (what was asked by the police),” lawyer S Selvam added.

The kin and friends of detainees have also reported police intimidation, threats and request for bribes by means of phone calls. 

V Umah Devi, wife of G. Swaminathan another one of the arrested men, had received a phone call from an untraceable number whom she believed to be a police officer offering to release only her husband in return for a what she understood as a money bribe: ‘belanja makan’.

She had been sitting outside Bukit Aman police headquarters, on the third day of her hunger strike, calling for her husband’s release, when she received a call from an anonymous caller who identified himself as a ‘senior officer’ cautioned her that herself and her fellow protesters were being monitored.

“The man said that he was a police officer monitoring me sitting outside Bukit Aman and asked me to move but I refused, saying that I just wanted to see my husband released before Deepavali,” she said.

Uma Devi, who is four months pregnant went on to say how further phone calls were made to her family as well as Saminathan’s personal assistant, K Jayasutha and the families of the other detainees. 

Jayasutha said she had shared articles in the days following Saminathan’s arrest to prove his innocence and was organising vigils and demonstrations calling for his release. However, she said she had been warned from sharing information solidarity demonstrations, vigils and prayers as they were “going viral”.

Meanwhile, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), a human rights organisation based in the country has called on the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) to declare the detention of the 12 detainees as illegal.

Their call comes as Malaysian parliamentarian Charles Santiago suggested that the arrests, which included detaining two DAP assemblymen might be a form of “political manoeuvring”. Santiago queried the time of the arrests in relation to the evening of the 2020 Budget proposal Oct 10, when two of twelve men were arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) for allegedly ‘promoting, supporting and channelling funds to the LTTE’. 

“The budget is one of the most important events in the year and instead everyone is talking about Sosma,” he stated.

Santiago claimed that Sosma was simply a tool to “break the peace and stability in the country”. 

Responding to claims that the men were linked to the LTTE or reportedly planning to attack the Sri Lankan High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, he said that no proof of such plans had been produced by Malaysian authorities. 

“Where is the evidence?” he said.

See more from the New Straits Times here, Free Malaysia Today here and here, and The Star here.