Chee’s trial begins on 8 Jan

5 Jan 2007

The trial of Singapore’s most vocal opposition leader for trying to leave the country without permission was postponed today for the second day in a row.

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan told Judge Aedit Abdullah that his new lawyer is tied up in cases this week.

Abdullah rescheduled the trial until Monday. It had been rescheduled yesterday until today after Chee said he and Dodwell had only been able to communicate via e-mail and were unable to go through the specifics of the trial.

Chee, 44, is charged with attempting to leave the city-state last April without the official approval he needs as a bankrupt. He was stopped at Changi Airport trying to board a flight bound for Istanbul, Turkey, where he planned to attend the World Movement for Democracy meeting.

He was declared a bankrupt last year for failing to pay S$500,000 (US$331,000) in damages to Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew for defaming them during the 2001 general election.

Chee, who emerged from jail two weeks ago, faces a fine of S$5,000 (US$3,311), jail for up to one year, or both if convicted in the current case.

Chee Siok Chin, his sister, said he was “feeling well” after being treated in the prison ward of Changi General Hospital during his recent confinement.

He had opted to go to jail instead of paying a S$5,000 (US$3,265) fine after he was convicted in November for speaking in public without a permit last April in the run-up to the general election.

After bouts of vomiting in prison and stomach pains, the SDP said he was moved to the hospital. Altogether, he was confined for more than three weeks.

It was the fifth time in seven years that Chee went to jail instead of paying a fine.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticised the city-state for strictly limiting speech to muzzle its critics.

Dr Chee’s trial will begin on 8 Jan 06, Monday, at 9:30 am.

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