This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.
A combination of defiance and secrecy reigned at the latest trial involving practitioners of the Falungong faith. The defendants, in protest of the judge’s refusal to conduct the trial in a bigger courtroom, refused to participate in the proceedings and stood with their backs facing the judge.
In response, the judge sentenced them to two days in prison for contempt of court.
The six, all women, are charged with holding an “assembly without a permit” when they were distributing flyers along Orchard in 2006. They were passing out information to call the public’s attention to the continued killing and organ harvesting of their fellow believers in China.
At the beginning of the trial this morning, members of the public who wanted to witness the trial were turned away as were the media. Even members of the family of the six women were not allowed to enter the courtroom.
The reason for this is, according to the police, because the courtroom (No. 35) is too small. Only eight seats are available, six of them taken up by the defendants and the remaining two occupied by court interpreters.
This was precisely the reason why the six defendants had repeatedly asked the pre-trial conference judge to assign a bigger courtroom so that observers could witness the proceedings. This was turned down.
Not only was the pubic not allowed to enter the courtroom, police had cordoned off the foyer leading to the courtroom, giving the proceedings the feel of a secret operation rather than a open trial.
Then at about 11 am the six defendants were led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and taken to the court lockup. But rather than brought down through the courtroom exit, the six were escorted in handcuffs down the hallway of the Subordinate Courts.
When asked what was going on, the police officers remain tight-lipped and refused to answer any questions.
One of the defendant’s husband asked repeatedly to see his wife, Ms Dianna Wang. Each time, the officer would only say: “I have to check.” He would then disappear and not return.
When queried again, another officer would say the same thing and not return with an answer.
In the afternoon, the Deputy Public Prosecutor was seen leaving the courtroom. Apparently the judge had asked for the proceedings to be stood down. And yet, attempts to find out from the police what had happened was met with the usual “I have to find out” followed by the usual nonresponse.
After more pleading by Ms Wang’s husband to see his wife, a police sergeant came out to inform him that he could not see his wife.
“But why?” enquired the husband.
“Don’t know,” the officer haughtily replied and walked away.
An observer said: “In all my life growing up in Singapore, I never thought that the police could act in such a manner. It is shameful.”
It is understood that the defendants, all acting in person, have been taken to Changi Prison to serve their two-day sentences. Exactly what transpired in the courtroom remains unclear.
It is further understood that they will be brought back to court on Wednesday morning to resume their trial.
Such an arrangement, where the public does not have access to the trial, is of great concern. Trials must be open to the public and the media. After all, the case involves questions of peaceful assembly which is of interest to the public at large.
In a previous case in November 2006 regarding two Falungong practitioners, Ms Ng Chye Huay and Mr Erh Boon Tiong, the courtroom assigned (No. 36) was only a little bigger with 12 seats. The two were charged with harassment by displaying “insulting words” when they hung a banner outside the Chinese Embassy, calling on the Chinese Government to stop persecuting Falungong.
Whether one is a Falungong believer or not, one’s trial must be opened to the public. In this regard, the present trial is quite unlike any other.
It is apparent that the six have resorted to such action to register their protest against the refusal to allow their trial to be conducted in a normal-sized courtroom.