By Kow Gah Chie | Malaysiakini

16 participants who were arrested during a candlelight vigil honouring those who died of COVID-19, filed a civil suit against the police for wrongful arrest against them, today.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer New Sin Yew said his clients were seeking a court declaration that their rights as stipulated under the Federal Constitution were violated during the Aug 19 gathering.

They are asking for general damages and compensation of RM1,000 for a damaged handphone, he told a virtual press conference called by Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat (SSR) on behalf of the 16 plaintiffs.

SSR was the organiser of the candlelight vigil #Lawan protest held in remembrance of COVID-19 victims at Dataran Merdeka four months ago.ADS

The plaintiffs named the Inspector-General of Police, police, Home Ministry, and the Malaysian government as respondents.

“That night was supposed to be a night to commemorate the 13,385 who died due to COVID-19, but turned into the night the police detained the participants brutally and violently,” said Asraf Sharafi, SSR’s spokesperson.

Besides wrongful arrest, he said, the 16 youth are taking the relevant parties to court for unjustified attack during the vigil, violation of statutory responsibilities, and misconduct of public office.

They wanted the court to declare the police action violated their constitutional rights as enshrined under Articles 5, 8, 9 and 10, Asraf said.

“I have seen how the participants were dragged, scolded, and abused by the police that night. This is not a characteristic of a democratic country and a ‘caring government’.

“What happened was very embarrassing and inappropriate given that the participants only wanted to commemorate their friends, family members, and Malaysian who have fallen victims to COVID-19.

“They just lighted candles, recited poems, and placed roses as a symbolic gesture but they were treated so harshly that some were abused and dragged away,” he added.

31 individuals arrested

A total of 31 individuals were arrested during the candlelight vigil, included the members of SSR.

Many participants were seen physically dragged into the waiting Black Marias, after altercations between the participants of the candlelight vigil and police personnel on-site.

They were heard repeatedly demanding the police to state whether they were under arrest, but their questions were ignored.

They were later slapped with compounds of RM2,000 each.

Two of the participants were charged under section 90 of the Police Act 1967 in connection with their arrest during the vigil.