Pastor Koh's lawyer baffled over police decision to charge alleged conman for kidnapping (Updated)

KUALA LUMPUR: More questions are arising following the revelation that a man had been charged for the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh.

The sudden prosecution of Lam Chang Nam, 32 – an alleged conman nabbed for attempting to extort RM30,000 from Koh's son, Jonathan, weeks after the pastor went missing on Feb 13 last year caught everyone by surprise.

Authorities, however, remained tight-lipped in the latest twist of events after the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) revealed on Tuesday that it had to stop its inquiry into Koh's disappearance.

This was because Suhakam was informed by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun in a letter on Monday that a man had been charged under Section 365 of the Penal Code in the Petaling Jaya Magistrate's Court in connection with Koh's abduction.

Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED) urged authorities to explain Lam's sudden prosecution just as Suhakam was making headway in its inquiry into the disappearance of Koh and several others.

"We have been inspired by the way the panel has conducted the inquiry so far ... but were shocked to be informed Koh's inquiry will cease until further notice," CAGED said in a statement.

CAGED questioned both the timing of the charge against Lam for Koh's kidnap as well as the authorities' failure to publicise the development in the case.

It also stressed that the charge came just before three main police witnesses were due to testify in the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Koh's family lawyer was baffled as to how a person can be charged with kidnapping when all the authorities had were mere leads on the alleged crime and not concrete evidence.

Lawyer Gurdial Singh said it is very strange that the police decided to do this, towards the very end of the inquiry by Suhakam.

"When crucial witnesses such as a Special Branch officer and a CCTV expert were about to give their evidence, the police decided to charge Lam.

Gurdial pointed out that during the inquiry, former Inspector-General of Police (Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar) and Selangor CID chief SAC (Fadzil Ahmat) had both under oath ruled Lam out.

The lawyer said he was baffled as to how the police can charge someone with kidnapping when they only have leads but no firm evidence.

Gurdial added that the police had also failed to inform the family about the decision to charge Lam.

"If Koh was kidnapped, does it mean that the police believe he is still alive? They should explain to the family their decision and not leave them in limbo," he said.

Meanwhile, Koh's family also expressed surprised that the public inquiry into his abduction had come to a halt.

"I am extremely surprised because it is creating a setback in rescuing my dad. However, the inquiry is a three-part process with three other missing persons. I hope there will be a statement on the matter," Jonathan told theSun.

Commenting on Lam, Jonathan said: "(It's surprising) that he was accused of extortion, but it has now changed to kidnapping. We hope the police will be transparent on the matter."

He said a vigil will be held on Feb 13 in remembrance of his father.

Suhakam, meanwhile, has clarified that the inquiry on the disappearance of Koh was not halted following instructions from the police.

Its chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said a letter from the police received by Suhakam on Monday had only pointed to Section 12 (3) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act, without any instruction to suspend the inquiry.

Section 12 of the Act states that an inquiry shall not proceed if the subject matter is part of a court proceeding.

The Suhakam inquiry had sought to establish whether the disappearance of Koh and three others – Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmi and his wife Ruth Sitepu – were cases of enforced or involuntary disappearance, as defined under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Inquiry chairman Datuk Mah Weng Kai was visibly upset with media reports, stressing that Suhakam was "100% independent" in its investigations.

He said he was "annoyed, irritated and almost angry" as the impression made by the media was that the panel had obeyed police order.