Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mental tests put off over lawyers' presence

Source: http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/115343 By Hazlan Zakaria, 19/10/2009
Family members of deceased political aide Teoh Beng Hock today refused to take part in interviews with psychiatrists after they were denied the right to have their lawyers or close family members present during the tests. Teoh's fiancee Soh Cher Wei, his parents and two siblings were to have been interviewed by psychiatrists at the Psychiatric and Mental Health Department at Selayang Hospital this morning. His friend Woo Chuan Sing is to be interviewed separately. The interview was to be conducted by a panel of three doctors comprising Dr Bada'iah Yahya, Dr Nor Hayati Ali and Dr Chee Kok Yun.
Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng, who accompanied them, said, “We were here for the appointment even before 11am. However it was over before it could even begin.” Just prior to the sessions, doctors informed them that closed interviews would be held and that these are not open to lawyers or family members. Lim said this came as a surprise because they had been informed by the family's lawyer Gobind Singh Deo – who represents them in the ongoing inquest into Teoh's death – that the coroner had allowed a lawyer or close family member to accompany those being interviewed. Suggesting a compromise, the Segambut MP said that he and Teoh's family members asked for copies of the transcript of the interview or the audio recording. However, he said the doctors flatly refused, saying that they are only allowed to release the transcript and recording to the deputy public prosecutor (DPP). As a result, the family members refused to take part in the tests unless their lawyers or a family member are present. Lim (left) stressed: “This is not a cancellation, it is only a postponement. We will wait for a new date to be fixed for the tests pending clarification from coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas.” He said Dr Nor Hayati had told him this is the first time forensic psychiatry is being used in criminal investigation in Malaysia, and that the panel of experts had submitted a proposal to the coroner when asked to help in the case. Their proposal included suggestions on the right way to conduct interviews, and a request to interview all those connected to the case, especially Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers involved in questioning Teoh. “Dr Nor Hayati said this is the only way to profile all those involved and determine indications of guilt or wrongdoing. But she said an order was then issued to the doctors to only interview Teoh's family,” he said, speculating that this could have been issued by the DPP.
'Family sad and angry'
Lim said there is no need for psychiatric interviews to determine the state of mind of Teoh's family members - they want it to be known that they are in “utter sadness” and “very angry”. He explained that this is because MACC had made “false accusations” by saying that Teoh had committed suicide; that he had an intimate relationship with his housemate; and that he could not afford to finance his wedding. Teoh's sister revealed that the savings account balance that MACC had revealed was not the only source of money he had. “He had over RM20,000 in a fixed deposit account even before he became political secretary,” she said.
Teoh, the political secretary of state executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah, was taken in for questioning on July 15 by the MACC as a witness in its investigation into the alleged abuse of constituency funds by certain elected representatives in Selangor. His body was found the next day on the fifth floor verandah of the Plaza Masalam building. The MACC has its office on the 14th floor.

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