Thursday 4 October 2012

Bersih leaders decry harassment at airports

Nigel Aw

At least three Bersih committee members have been temporarily stopped while attempting to board international flights since last month.

Although they were eventually allowed to travel, the trio - Andrew Khoo, Maria Chin Abdullah and Yeo Yang Poh - said this was an attempt to harass them in the wake of the government move to tighten the screws on NGOs.

Bar Council Human Rights Committee co-chairperson Andrew KhooLawyer Khoo (left), who was on his way to Bangkok for a conference yesterday, was stopped for 20 minutes at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

"I had to go and see an immigration officer, who made a phone call for clearance. They said there was a police file on my record," he said when contacted by Malaysiakini.

He speculated that the authorities may have decided on the move recently as he was able to travel to the Philippines on Sept 9 without problems.

"This is an unnecessary encumbrance on my freedom to travel," he lamented.

Khoo added he had no existing police cases against him except for a lawsuit initiated by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) against Bersih for damages caused during its July 9 rally.

killthebill bersih 2 one year anniversary vigil 070912 maria chin abdullahSimilarly, women's activist Maria (right) was on Sept 18 stopped by immigration officers when attempting to leave for Nepal via the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).

"They stopped me for about 20 minutes. Eventually they allowed me to go through immigration but they informed me there was a police case against me," she said when contacted.

A case of paranoia

Maria said while there had been several police investigations against her on Bersih's activities, she had never been charged for any offence.

"This is a serious harassment against us, we have not committed a crime," she said.

ai police commission forum 150607 yeoh yang pohAlso facing the same problem was Yeo (right), a former Bar Council chairperson who lives in Johor Bahru and frequently travels to Singapore.

"I had two experiences in September when going to Singapore. They required me to go to the immigration office for clearance," he said.

Describing this as a case of paranoia, Yeo said the government would do better to allow immigration officers to do their job rather than to look out for Bersih leaders.

"They should stop doing this. This is something that makes them look bad - for attempting to harass citizens," he said.

"This is a pointless exercise and it is really laughable."

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