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Singaporean man allowed to challenge 'unlawful detention' by Malaysian authorities

A High Court in Malaysia has allowed a Singaporean man to seek a declaration that he was unlawfully detained for eight days by the immigration authorities there in 2018.

Mr Wong Chun Khuen, 65, a retired engineer, was arrested by Malaysian immigration officers on Feb 28, 2018, for allegedly harbouring six illegal immigrants.

He owned a house in Johor Bahru where the illegal immigrants were staying, and was arrested when he was there, purportedly to carry out repair works.

Under the Malaysian Constitution, he was required to be produced before a magistrate by March 12 that year. But he was brought to court only on March 26.

Mr Wong pleaded guilty before a court in Johor Bahru for immigration offences, and was fined RM30,000 (S$9,600) or six months' jail in default.

He immediately paid the fine but instead of being released, he was detained for another eight days and deported back to Singapore on April 4.

Malaysian lawyer Arun Kasi, who is representing Mr Wong, told The Straits Times yesterday that the application by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to strike out his client's legal challenge over the eight-day detention was dismissed by High Court Judge Noorin Badaruddin on Wednesday. This allows the suit to be heard in the High Court.

"He should have been immediately released on March 26, 2018, after receiving a court discharge order, but he was only let out on April 4, 2018. There was an additional eight days of detention, which we declare as illegal," said Mr Arun.

"So now, we will have a day for the court to hear it. The judge has fixed Aug 24 for mention of the case."

On May 5 last year, Mr Wong obtained a court declaration that his 13-day detention by the immigration authorities - from March 14 to 26, 2018 - was illegal. The High Court found that he was not produced before a magistrate within 14 days of his arrest.

The decision by the court was a win for justice, Mr Wong said.

"Everyone told me there's no way I could win, so this is a wonderful development," he said. "I want justice, I want to fight to clear my name. I want to do this so that no other foreigner will have to go through what I went through."

Mr Wong has not been able to return to Malaysia since the incident, and has had to sell three of the properties he owned there.

He said: "I will pursue further action, but will need to discuss with my legal team first on the best course of action to take from here."

- Additional reporting by David Sun

malaysiaSingaporeIMMIGRATION LAWSCOURT & CRIME