Trials scheduled too close together, activists say

October 16, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

SDP members and activists prosecuted with various offences appeared in court last week to take dates for the trials. The pre-trial conference (PTC) judge Mr Liew Thiam Leng scheduled the cases one after another in quick succession.

The defendants protested that scheduling the cases so close together did not allow them time to prepare.

In one of the cases, the Judge even wanted to schedule a case beginning on Christmas Eve. He subsequently moved that to just before the New Year. It was only when the DPP said that some of the police witnesses would be on leave during that period that the Judge agreed to fix the hearing in January next year.

Dr Chee Soon Juan pointed out that some of the trials were scheduled only several days apart. “We have to make written submissions and then prepare for the next hearing. How is this possible when we have only a matter of days to do these?”

He pointed out that some of the charges involved matters in 2006.

“The AG’s Chambers had more than two years to take action, but waited till now to put all the charges together,” Dr Chee said, “The courts then schedule the hearings in quick succession depriving us of the time for preparation.”

It was also pointed out to the Judge that when he fixed the dates, some of the defendants were not present in his chambers. It is understood that all parties need to be present to schedule trial dates.

And yet Ms Chee Siok Chin, Mr John Tan and Mr Teoh Tian Jing were left to wait outside the Judge’s chambers when the dates were fixed. The Judge only called them in after the trial dates were scheduled.

Ms Chee then produced a medical certificate from Mr Gandhi Ambalam who was hospitalised and could not attend the PTC. She asked that another PTC be convened to allow Mr Ambalam to be present. But the Judge dismissed this request.

Despite the AG’s Chambers actions to silence dissenting voices, these human rights defenders know that they will be vindicated one day and are determined to fight on for their fellow Singaporeans.

Below is the schedule for the various trials:

23 Oct 08 – 7 Nov 08
Two charges for illegal procession and assembly in Mar 2008.
Defendants: 18 Tak Boleh Tahan activists.

26 Nov 08 – 12 Dec 08
Two charges of illegal procession and assembly during the WB-IMF meeting in Sep 2006.
Defendants: Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Soon Juan, Chee Siok Chin, Jeffrey George, Charles Tan, and Teoh Tian Jing.

18 Dec 08 – 22 Dec 08
Remainder of the hearing for two charges of speaking without a permit in 2005 and 2006.
Defendants: Chee Soon Juan, Yap Keng Ho.

5 Jan 09 – 16 Jan 08
One charge for distributing flyers in Sep 2006.
Defendants: Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Soon Juan, Chee Siok Chin, and Jeffrey George.

26 Jan 08 – 18 Feb 08
Two charges for illegal assembly and procession in Sep 2007.
Defendants: Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Siok Chin, Charles Tan, John Tan, Teoh Tian Jing.

Trial to be fixed
Proceedings commenced for contempt of court.
Defendants: John Tan, Isrizal, and Shafi’ie