District Court Judge Thian Sze Yee dismissed lawyer Mr Joseph Chen’s application for time to prepare his defence of Dr Chee Soon Juan who is charged with speaking in public without a permit.
Mr Chen appeared in court on Friday and told Judge Thian that he was prepared to act for Dr Chee but needed until 18 Aug 08 to be properly briefed by his client and to prepare the defence case. Mr Chen is also the lawyer suing the Attorney-General’s Chambers in the case of Mr Dickson Tan who was caned more strokes than the number ordered in the original sentence.
Mr Chen explained that there are constitutional arguments to be made in Dr Chee’s case and these require proper research and study. He informed the Judge that he had cases in the Court to argue on 14 and 18 Aug 08 and these needed his immediate attention.
“I have to ensure that I can prepare an adequate defence for Dr Chee,” Mr Chen implored. “If the trial proceeds now, I would not be in a position to assist.”
The Deputy Public Prosecutor objected and insisted that Dr Chee had “all this time” to get a lawyer but didn’t.
The background facts: The pre-trial conference (PTC) for this trial was held while Dr Chee was in prison for contempt of court in June. When Dr Chee was brought from prison to attend the PTC, he indicated that he needed a lawyer. The courts then fixed another PTC 11 days after Dr Chee was released.
Dr Chee had earlier explained to the Judge that in the space of less than a month he had two appeals to handle and a further charge of procession and assembly with a permit to answer to. He said that these matters all proceeding at about the same time were overwhelming.
Despite this Judge Thian dismissed Mr Chen’s application and ordered the trial to proceed on Monday morning.
“In that case, Your Honour, I have no choice but to discharge myself from the matter,” Mr Chen informed the court.
On the same day, Dr Chee had to attend a PTC together with the other 18 who have been charged for taking part in the Tak Boleh Tahan! protest on 15 Mar 08. The activists informed the court that they needed more time to look for lawyers. A further PTC was fixed for 18 Aug 08.
The activists all indicated their determination to face the state in court and to defend their rights as citizens of Singapore.