A witness testifying to an inquiry into the disappearance of Malaysian pastor Raymond Koh described his February kidnapping as resembling a 'police operation'.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) today began a publicly inquiry regarding the disappearance of pastor Raymond Koh, who has now been missing for more than eight months.
A witness to Koh's kidnapping, Roeshan Celestine Gomez, told the inquiry that an investigating police officer had likened the abduction to a police operation, according to The Malay Mail Online.
'He told me not to worry. In a casual conversation he told me based on how I described the incident, it looked like a police operation because it was done very quickly and in broad daylight,' said Gomez, a 25-year-old law student.
'He also asked his colleague to check if there was any police operation that day and said he would get back to me.'
Commission chair Datuk Mah Weng Kwai interrupted to say that Gomez's statement would be regarded as 'hearsay' until it could be confirmed by the police officer in question.
Gomez said that he and a female friend had witnessed the dramatic kidnapping of Koh from his car on February 13, on operation that involved seven vehicles and at least 15 men – and was captured on video.
Gomez said he and his friend were driving when they first saw three black vehicles surrounding a silver car on SS4 Petaling Jaya road. The assailants were allegedly dressed in black, with black ski-masks, in outfits resembling a US SWAT team. He then witnessed a struggle between one of the men and the silver car's driver, which Gomez's companion attempted to film on her phone before in Indian man appeared before them and gestured for her to stop.
Gomez said he then reversed his car while still being followed by the Indian man. The black vehicles then drove away.
'After that I called the police to make them aware of what just happened. The officer I spoke to asked me to head to Kelana Jaya Police Station to lodge my report. Two hours later, I was brought to see the investigating officer,' Gomez said. The video footage of the swift, 40-second abduction appears to show an uninvolved car being ushered away from the scene of the crime.
He also detailed a disturbing incident in June just days before he was due to attend an identity parade regarding the kidnapping at Petaling Jaya police headquarters.
Gomez said: 'I was out with my friend at Kota Damansara and someone broke my rear left car window and stole a laptop bag. In the bag were copies of my IC, some work notes and a personal statement I prepared for SUHAKAM.
'After going for the identity parade on July 6 and speaking to SUHAKAM on July 17, someone left that same bag in front of my house's gate. When I first saw it I was afraid it was a bomb. When I opened it I saw that they left everything there except for a plastic file.'
One man is in custody in connection with Koh's kidnapping, accused of approaching his family for a ransom. It is unclear, however, whether he was involved. In June, police said they had found an unexpected link during an operation against a smuggling syndicate – photographs of Koh's house and his two vehicles were found at the home of a suspect killed during a shootout.
Meanwhile, a group comprising 48 civil society organisations, Citizen Action Group On Enforced Disappearance (CAGED) has been formed to put pressure on the government over the disappearance cases. Its spokesmen have been warned by police after accusing them of complicity in the kidnappings. Thomas Fann told the Guardian: 'We say that there is a high probability there have been enforced disappearances, which means that the state may be directly or indirectly involved.
'We have a reason to believe that there is a relationship because they are all faith-based workers.'
The police have denied the suggestion. The SUHAKAM inquiry is also investigating the disappearances of another pastor, Joshua Hilmy, his wife Ruth Sitepu and social activist Amri Che Mat.