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District Judge Toh Yung Cheong (photo) had issued a warrant of arrest for Dr Chee Soon Juan who is presently in Taiwan for his father-in-law’s funeral but rescinded it earlier today.
Judge Toh issued the warrant last Wednesday, 24 June 2009, the day the hearing for the trial over the WB-IMF protest in 2006 was to resume.
Dr Chee did not appear in court that day as he had left for Taiwan four days earlier because his father-in-law was dying.
He had applied for an adjournment before he left but Judge Toh rejected the request and ordered that the hearing proceed as scheduled. Dr Chee then asked to see Mr Toh in person but was told that the Judge was on vacation.
He then asked to see the Pre-Trial Conference Judge Mr Liew Thiam Leng to make the urgent application. Judge Liew refused. The SDP leader then asked to see the Duty Registrar but was told that this was not possible.
Dr Chee had earlier obtained clearance from the Official Assignee to travel to Taiwan. The OA’s office had rejected a similar application in 2006 to see his ailing father-in-law.
Co-defendants Mr Gandhi Ambalam and Ms Chee Siok Chin made another appeal to see Mr Toh on Dr Chee’s behalf on Monday, 22 June but the Judge refused to see them.
When the trial resumed on 24 June, another appeal was made. The Judge again rejected this and issued a warrant of arrest for the SDP secretary-general. The rest of the defendants were told to return to court on 26 June.
In the meantime Dr Chee’s father-in-law passed away on 25 June.
The judge was informed about this when parties went back to court on the 26th. The defence asked on Dr Chee’s behalf that he be allowed to stay on to attend the funeral. Again Judge Toh refused. “The warrant of arrest still stands,” he ordered.
Dr Chee explained that his request was not unreasonable and that he would have to stay on in Taiwan to see through familial obligations. He would face the consequences upon his return. He just wanted to make arrangements to ensure that his children would be brought home safely should he be arrested at the airport.
This morning, however, Judge Toh reversed his decision and cancelled the warrant. He told the defendants that the court had not asked for the documentary proof of the death when it should have. Due to this oversight and now that he had been furnished with the proof, the Judge decided to withdraw the warrant of arrest for Dr Chee.
New dates will be picked for the on-going trial.