Thursday, November 27, 2008

Persecution and prosecution of activists continue

Speakers Cornered by Martyn See. See his blogpost here.

Chee, 5 others charged
By Aaron Low, Straits Times website, 26 Nov 08

ONE of six people charged with attempting to hold a public processsion without a permit has pleaded guilty.

Jeffrey George, 44, was part of a group that allegedly tried to hold a procession at the Speaker's Corner in 2006 when the International Monetary Fund and World Bank were holding meetings here.

Four of the six - Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, 46; his sister Chee Siok Chin, 42; Teoh Tian Jin, 23; and Yap Keng Ho, 47 - have pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The other individual, Gandhi Ambalam, 65, did not enter a plea.

George faces a fine of up to $1,000 and his guilty plea is being dealt with at a separate hearing this afternoon.

Earlier, at the hearing held in the morning in the Subordinate Court, the Chees, Yap and Gandhi complained about an amendment made to the charge against them.

They were unhappy that the prosecution amended the charge from 'holding the public procession' to 'attempting to hold the public procession'.

The group, who are representing themselves, pointed out that this was done just a week before the trial started.

They argued that this caused difficulties in preparing for their defence and asked the court to give them more time.

District judge Toh Yung Cheong will hear their application for an adjournment of the trial tomorrow morning.

First day of trial for WB-IMF protesters
Singapore Democrats, 26 Nov 08

The first day of the trial of six SDP members and activists was adjourned. The defendants wanted more time to prepare the case because the prosecution had amended the charge at the last minute.

"What is amazing is the fact that only two days ago, the Prosecution decided to amend the charge when the matter happened more than two years ago," noted Mr Gandhi.

The Judge gave the defendants the rest of the day to seek legal advice on the amended charges.

The adjournment was also needed for Mr Jeffrey George to plead guilty in another courtroom. Mr George had applied to the court for him to be tried separately because of his overseas work commitment, which remained incomplete.

"If my case can be postponed till after this job is done, I will come back and face trial," he told District Judge Toh Yoon Cheong.

Judge Toh rejected his request and insisted that Mr George stand trial immediately. That left Mr George no option but to plead guilty because he needed to return to work the same afternoon.

Mr Jeffrey's case was then transferred to another court before District Judge Liew Thian Leng who fined him a total of S$1,300 for two charges, the present one and another for distributing flyers in September 2006.

In a statement, Mr Jeffrey said: "I am pleading guilty as there are no alternative avenues open to me. First I tried to postpone the trial or have a separate trial for me but both requests were rejected by DJ Toh. I put up the two requests because of my work commitments outside Singapore. I'm half-way through on a contract job in Peninsula Malaysia.

"My pleading guilty comes after I have exhausted all avenues. My guilty plea should in no way be interpreted as changing my views on challenging some of the unjust laws deliberately kept in place by the ruling party to prohibit peaceful assemblies and association.

"I will continue to defy unjust laws that trample upon my constitutional rights under Article 14. I take this opportunity to express my complete solidarity with my brave colleagues who are standing up for civil liberties and the rule of law."

Earlier the defendants applied to be tried separately from Mr Yap Keng Ho who was not part of the protest group. Mr Yap also wanted a separate trial because he said he was there as an observer, not a participant. The judge overruled this and said that the defendants would all be tried in a joint trial.

The trial continues tomorrow at 11.30 am in Subordinate Court No. 19.

A new trial begins before the last one ends
Singapore Democrats, 23 Nov 08

Even before the trial against the 18 Tak Boleh Tahan protesters is concluded, another hearing will begin on Wednesday, 26 Nov 08. This one involves six defendants who were part of a protest during the World Bank-IMF Meeting in September 2006.

Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan, Ms Chee Siok Chin, Mr Jeffrey George, Mr Charles Tan, and Mr Teoh Tian Jing were initially charged for participating in a procession without a permit from Speakers' Corner to Parliament House.

However the charge was suddenly amended at the last minute (yesterday) to "did attempt to participate" in a procession.

The police had blocked the protesters at Hong Lim Park which resulted in a three-day stand off. The Government had also banned all groups from conducting protests during the Meeting which sparked off widespread criticism of the Singapore Government for not respecting freedom of speech and assembly.

The World Bank also chastised the Government for reneging on its promise to allow 28 accredited NGO representatives to attend the Meeting. Then WB president Paul Wolfowitz angrily raised the issue with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong saying "Enormous damage has been done...A lot of that damage has been to Singapore and it's self-inflicted."

Mr Lee backed-down and decided to allow 22 of the representatives in. But the activists boycotted the Meeting and refused to attend.
The charge

You are charged that you on 16 September 2006 at about 12 noon, at Speakers' Corner, Hong Lim Park, North Canal Road, Singapore, which is a public place...did attempt to participate in procession from Speakers Corner to Parliament House intended to demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Government, when you ought reasonably to have known that the intended procession would have been held without a permit under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) (Assemblies and Processions) Rules (Cap 184), and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under rule 5 of the said rules read with section 511 of the Penal Code (Cap 224).

Rule 5 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) (Assemblies and Processions) Rules - Any person who participates in any assembly or procession in any public road, public place or place of public resort shall, if he knows or ought reasonably to have known that the assembly or procession is held without a permit, or in contravention of any term or condition of a permit, be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000.

Section 511 of the Penal Code - Whoever attempts to commit an offence punishable by this Code or by any other written law with imprisonment or fine or with a combination of such punishments, or attempts to cause such an offence to be committed, and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence, shall, where no express provision is made by this Code or by such other written law, as the case may be, for the punishment of such attempt, be punished with such punishment as is provided for the offence: Provided that any term of imprisonment imposed shall not exceed one-half of the longest term provided for the offence.

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