Four Corners arrests: ABC’s Linton Besser, Louie Eroglu to be charged over questioning of Malaysia PM
An ABC journalist and camera operator have been told they will be charged by Malaysian authorities after attempting to question Prime Minister Najib Razak during a public event in Kuching.
Four Corners reporter Linton Besser and cameraman Louie Eroglu will likely be charged with obstructing a public servant in the discharge of their duties.
Malaysian police have previously said the pair were being investigated for failing to comply with instructions not to cross a police line.
Besser questioned Mr Razak as he walked into a mosque on Saturday night, asking the Prime Minister why hundreds of millions of dollars had been deposited into his bank account.
The pair were surrounded by the Prime Minister’s security team and then allowed to leave, before later being arrested and questioned for six hours in a police station.
Their passports were taken and then returned, but they were told not to leave the country while their case was investigated.
The lawyer for the ABC pair, Albert Tang, said he received a call from Ng Ahlek, the superintendent of police for Malaysia’s Padawan District, telling him to bring his clients to court at 8.30am (local time) so they could be charged.
“When asked who made the decision to institute the charge against my clients, he said it was the Attorney-General who made the decision,” Mr Tang said.
Mr Tang said normally those decisions were made by a local deputy public prosecutor.
“I suppose this is being regarded as a high-profile case, that is why the Attorney-General himself is making the decision,” he said.
The pair are being charged under Section 186 of the Malaysian penal code, which carries a maximum penalty of a 10,000 ringgit ($3,000) fine and a two-year jail term.
ABC ‘very concerned’
In a statement, the ABC said it was “very concerned by the prospect of charges being laid in Malaysia against our journalists Linton Besser and Louie Eroglu, who have been working on assignment with Four Corners”.
Linton and Louie have the full support of the ABC and we are working with all the relevant authorities to try to resolve this matter.ABC
“We are awaiting details of any proposed case and are taking legal advice on the next steps,” the broadcaster said.
“Linton and Louie have the full support of the ABC and we are working with all the relevant authorities to try to resolve this matter.”
ABC News director Gaven Morris has previously denied the allegations that were made about the behaviour of Besser and Eroglu at the event in Kuching.
“I can tell you that at no time did our journalists obstruct or intend to obstruct any public servants in performance of their duties,” Mr Morris said in a statement.
“They did not see a police line and do not believe they crossed one. They stopped filming and left the event as soon as they were asked. They fully cooperated with the police before and after their arrest.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has said Australia’s High Commissioner in Malaysia is in contact with the pair.
Courtesy of ABC.Net.au By South East Asia correspondent Adam Harvey in Kuching