Anwar Supporter Says Police Tear Gas Damaged His Eyesight
A supporter of Malaysia's jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim said Monday that police sprayed tear gas at him during an opposition rally last month and damaged his eyesight.
Saeden Wateh told an ongoing inquiry by the Human Rights Commission that police fired tear gas and charged at the crowd which was about to disperse during a gathering on a key highway on November 5.
He said he and several others formed a shield to let Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and other opposition leaders escape.
During the commotion, he said he told off a policeman for kicking an elderly man. At the time, a plain clothes officer "punched my cheeks and hit me on my back repeatedly" before other policemen joined in, he said.
"One of them came up to me and kicked my private parts," Wateh said. "Suddenly someone sprayed tear gas at me. My eyes were hurting and at the time, a policeman unzipped my pants and grasped my private parts."
He was taken to a truck where he was later hit again by tear gas sprayed into the vehicle. Wateh said he was hospitalized for nine days and now has to wear reading glasses as his vision was affected.
A three-member panel is investigating the November 5 mass rally which was broken up by police using tear gas, batons and water cannon.
Some 26 of the 125 people arrested and later bailed reported injuries ranging from bloody noses to cracked ribs.
Police and the attorney-general are boycotting the inquiry on grounds that it could prejudice future court proceedings. The rights panel says the matter is not "sub judice."
Another witness Shaari Abdul Karim said he was a bystander but was beaten up by police until he was "almost unconscious." He was then handcuffed and detained before released on bail several days later.
Saiful Khairy Kamarulzaman, a bodyguard for Wan Azizah, said he suffered from a fractured skull after a tear gas canister grazed his head.
He said he now suffered from occasional headaches and ringing ears.
Monashofian Zulkarnain Putra said he was caught in traffic when a group of policemen came and kicked his car.
He said his car was then towed to the police station and he was detained with his wife and a friend. He was later charged with insulting police and obstructing them from carrying out their duties, but said he had claimed trial.
Anwar, who was sacked and detained in September 1998, is serving a jail term totaling 15 years after being convicted of abuse of power and sodomy.
Anuar Zainal Abidin, a former chief justice of Malaya heading the panel, told reporters it was looking into a call by Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to establish procedures for the inquiry.
Abdullah last week said these would prevent misunderstanding and ease cooperation with police.
"We are looking into the rules but at the moment we are able to proceed even without the rules. It's a very simple matter. All I want is for someone to come and tell us what happened," Anuar said.
There were already provisions for the commission to summon witnesses as well as protection for them from legal action, he added.
He acknowledged that the inquiry -- the first conducted by the commission -- would be a "test case." He hoped to complete the probe by end of February or March next year.
The inquiry continues Tuesday -- KUALA LUMPUR (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)