PETALING JAYA: Ahmad Ziqri Morshidi, who was arrested for allegedly molesting a woman, is a victim of ignorance, says signatories of a petition urging justice for the 22-year-old autistic man.
The petition, which was launched by Persatuan Child Sabah on Monday (Sept 17) and uploaded on change.org, received over 11,300 signatures within 17 hours.
The petition called not only for Ahmad Ziqri to be treated fairly, but for the authorities to review its standard operating procedures when dealing with persons with disabilities.
"Ahmad Ziqri has the mental age of a much younger person and was unable to process much of what happened," said the petition which was addressed to the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and the Inspector-General of Police.
It said that while public awareness of autism had risen, very little was seen in terms of action in the community, leading to misunderstanding of such behaviour.
The petition asked that authorities work with psychiatrists, psychologists, and parents with children of disabilities to implement protocols.
It also implored "that members of the family or designated people be permitted to accompany persons with disabilities to enable them to navigate the system and support the individual".
The petition suggested that restraints such as handcuffs be used only as a last resort when dealing with people with disabilities, as stress and anxiety could manifest in the form of self-injury, seizures and extreme behaviour issues.
On Sept 11, Ahmad Ziqri was arrested for allegedly touching a 24-year-old woman's chest after a birthday celebration at a restaurant.
He was then taken to court to be remanded the next day, which meant that he had to spend the night in police lock-up.
His mother Hasnah told The Star that her son – who is of diminished mental capacity – did not understand the consequences of his actions or why he was being arrested.
"I'm not blaming the police, and I don't blame the complainant either.
"Putting myself in her shoes, it can be a harrowing experience, especially when you are not exposed to autism, and my son looks like a normal guy," she said.
However, Hasnah wished that the police would have handled her son's unique situation differently.
"If everybody were to sit down and listen to explanations, look at the medical report and then later judge for themselves, and make the necessary arrangements, that should be the way," she said.
Hasnah said people like her autistic son are children in adult bodies.
The police had applied for a four-day remand but this was denied by the Petaling Jaya magistrate's court on Sept 12. Ahmad Ziqri was subsequently released on police bail.
Hasnah said her son not his usual self after she took him home upon his release, with further investigations pending.