Nair remanded for one week: Will he be put under duress?

June 2, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Blogger Mr Gopalan Nair has been remanded for one more week because the police want more time for investigations.

Mr Nair was brought to the Subordinate Courts today and charged under the Miscellaneous Offences Act for “insulting a public servant.” He was represented by Mr Chia Ti Lik.

Mr Nair, a former Singaporean who stood as a Workers’ Party candidate in the 1988 and 1991 elections, fled Singapore in the 1990s and is now a US citizen.

He returned to Singapore last week to attend the hearing of the Lees’ defamation suits against the SDP.

He had posted on his blog that Mr Lee Kuan Yew was using the legal system to achieve his political ends. He wrote this in response to Mr Lee’s statement that he (Mr Lee) would sue bloggers for posting defamatory remarks if they could be identified.

Mr Nair was arrested on Saturday evening and has been held in police custody since then.

His lawyer argued in court today that it was not proper for the prosecution to continue to detain Mr Nair. Mr Chia said that the police already had the necessary evidence to charge Mr Nair if they wanted to.

They should prefer formal charges against his client immediately and release him on bail. He said that Mr Nair could be called up for investigations if the situation warranted it. The police had impounded Mr Nair’s American passport.

When Mr Nair was first brought before the courts this morning, it was decided that he would be released on a $5,000-bail. Activists made arrangements to put up bail for the dissident blogger.

As the day went on, however, there seemed to be confusion on the prosecution side as bail was rescinded and the defendant was held under remand. Lawyer Chia Ti Lik strenuously argued that his client should not be held any longer than necessary.

The police have everything they need to proceed with the case: emails, the blog, the passport, etc, Mr Chia added. It is highly irregular in such cases to continue to hold the defendant in custody.

Mr Nair is accused of sending insulting emails to the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, a charge which he denies.

It is a concern that Mr Nair continues to be detained by the police without any right to seeing his lawyer. This is a problem that many criminal lawyers in Singapore have spoke out against. It is a little known fact that accused persons in Singapore have no right to counsel when they are first arrested and interrogated.

To compound the problem, any statement made by the accused under such conditions, including confessions, are admissable as evidence. Such a problem becomes especially salient in death penalty cases where suspects become victims of their own statements made under duress.

In Mr Nair’s case. the concern that the blogger could be made to make statements prejudicial to his own defence under duress is very real. The danger of the police using the threat of continued remand against Mr Nair exists.

A group of activists will hold a vigil for Mr Nair tomorrow evening outside the Central Police Station at Cantonment Road. More details of this event will be announced.