from The Star online
by Stephen Then, 17 February 2009
MIRI: The detention of three Iban family members from the Bintulu Division in northern Sarawak has been brought to international limelight over the alleged violation of their right to a fair trial.
Their detention under the Emergency Ordinance (EO) was already a controversy – police maintain the arrest of the Rumah Sengok family members was for several robberies but the family says it involved a dispute with a development consortium over alleged ancestral land.
The three were picked up with four others on Dec 26 under the Penal Code for armed robbery.
On Jan 14, the four got police bail but a 60-day detention order under the EO was slapped on Bunya anak Sengok, 21, his brother Marai, 28, and Marai’s wife Melati anak Bekeni, 28, the next day.
Suhakam and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) are involved in the case following appeals from Sengok’s family.
The Sarawak police is under pressure to explain why the three have not been officially charged.
Add to the pressure is the fact that Melati is still nursing her 18-month-old daughter.
When contacted yesterday, State CID chief Senior Asst Comm (II) Huzir Mohamad said: “This case has nothing to do with any land dispute.
“The two men (Bunya and Marai) are suspected of being involved in a number of robberies in Bintulu.
“The woman (Melati) is suspected of having given protection to them and keeping stolen property.
“Suhakam said we had misused our powers but I personally met with their commissioners and explained what was happening,” he said.
He added that the Bintulu police station was allowing Melati to be with her baby, and to nurse her in a special room.
SAC Huzir gave an assurance that Melati, who also has a three-year-old son, would always be allowed to meet her children.
He added the next course of action would depend on directives from the Home Ministry.
The Penang-based SAM made an international appeal on Feb 11, alleging possible violation of their right to a fair trial.
Prior to that, SAM had written to the Sarawak Attorney General, the Inspector General of Police, Sarawak police chief and Suhakam to speed up investigations and charge them if there was evidence, or free them.
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