Singapore: Falun Gong Practitioners Resist an Attempted Secret Trial
(Clearwisdom.net) Following the pre-trial hearing held on December 8, 2006, the Singapore Subordinate Court once again held a pre-trial hearing on December 15, 2006, to arrange the agenda for trials on the falsely charged cases against Falun Gong practitioners. The judge, Ms. May Mesenas, overturned the decisions made at a previous pre-trial hearing, and arranged the trial for the October 23 case to be tried on January 22 next year, which is ahead of schedule. The practitioners involved had no objection. The judge insisted that the trial would be held at the smallest courtroom, No. 35 courtroom, for the case involving six practitioners. Her decision was collectively resisted by the accused Falun Gong practitioners.
Nine Falun Gong practitioners attended the pre-trial hearing regarding the three falsely charged cases, they were:
- October 22 case, regarding practitioners' activity on October 22, 2005. The prosecution falsely charged five Falun Gong practitioners with "Illegal Assembly."
- October 23 case, regarding practitioners' activity on October 23, 2005. The prosecution falsely charged six Falun Gong practitioners with "Illegal Assembly."
- Ng Chye Huay was falsely charged with "harassment" for protesting Li Lanqing opposite the Chinese Embassy on July 12, 2006.
Ng Chye Huay and Cheng Lujin were both involved in the above mentioned two falsely charged cases.
According to practitioners involved, at the pre-trial hearing a week ago, the judge had arranged the trial for the October 22 case to be held on January 22 to 26. But at this pre-trial hearing a week ago, the judge suddenly announced that the October 23 case to be held first during the time period from January 22 to 26, while the trial on the October 22 case will be arranged at other time.
The practitioners had no objection to the trial dates, but raised three requests regarding other matters concerning the trial on the October 23 case:
- Refuse a secret trial, requesting the judge to change the courtroom for the trial to an ordinary courtroom that can hold more than 60 people.
- Request the prosecution to provide a copy of the video (VCD format) on that day.
- Request to change the interpreter at the trial. (Note: English is used at the Singapore court, but allows the witnesses to testify in other languages that the court accepts, usually there is an interpreter who translates on the spot.)
The summary of the conversation on the first request provided by the practitioners involved:
Practitioner: We request that the trial be held at a large courtroom. We have many relatives and supporters. No. 35 courtroom is too small to hold those people.
Judge: I won't change it now, but will take note of your request.
Practitioner: We have made this request numerous times, we oppose such a secret trial.
Judge: Don't worry, the courtroom is big enough for people to audit. All media will be present at the time, covering your glaring performance.
Practitioner: I'm at a loss at what you said. There are only eight seats at the No. 35 courtroom, the practitioners involved this time are six. How can you manage to have "all the media" to have a seat there? Unless you give us a reason, otherwise we refuse to accept this arrangement.
When practitioners involved left the pre-trial hearing courtroom, the secretary of the court came out to deliver the notice for trial to practitioners. When the six practitioners confirmed that the venue for the trial on the notice was still No. 35 courtroom, they refused to accept the notice for trial.
Regarding this issue, one of the practitioners involved in the case Ng Chye Huay said, "The first trial on the 'July 20 case' was held on August 28. We found the public gallery at the courtroom was small, while we had more than a hundred supporters who had to stand outside the courtroom. Our lawyer made a request to the judge to change to a bigger room. The judge said it was arranged at the pre-trial hearing, so it had nothing to do with him. Later, we have made requests at all pre-trial hearings and during the trial sessions to change the courtroom, until the final round of the trial, but all our requests were unreasonably rejected, and we haven't got any sincere reply."
Supporters recalled that at the beginning of the trial on the July case, the court allowed supporters to enter the courtroom at the pre-trial hearing to audit, but were not allowed in later hearings. They could only wait outside the courtroom. They noticed that supporters for other cases could enter the courtroom at the pre-trial hearing.
Regarding the second request, that is, requesting the prosecution to provide a copy of the video taken on October 23, both the judge and prosecutor replied that the police had arranged the practitioners involved to watch it, so they won't provide the video. But the practitioners involved did not accept their explanation. The practitioners said if the police won't use this video as evidence for the court, the matter can be forgone. Otherwise, they will request the court to handle the matter according to the rules.
When the reporter interviewed Ms. Wang, one of the practitioners involved, she said that according to the Singapore law, if the video is offered as an evidence in court, the prosecution should provide us a copy of the video. The prosecutor is very clear about this. We only request to be treated fairly, and the request is very reasonable.
During the pre-trial hearing on December 8, the judge once said that the prosecution was considering if they wanted to add new charges. While at the pre-trial hearing a week later, the prosecution announced that the new charges would be added in the future, but not at present; they will be after handling this batch of cases.
Mr. Erh Boon Tiong and Ms. Ng Chye Huay who were involved in "July 20 case" were convicted, refused to be bailed out and forced directly into prisons on November 30. They were released after serving terms of 10 days and 15 days. They saw while being detained that prison staff had a big change in their attitudes toward them after hearing the righteous call for justice from around the world, urging the Singapore authorities not to persecute Falun Gong. Some of the prison staff self-examined what they had done, some tried to find excuses to defend themselves, and some wanted to learn more about the truth. Two inmates who shared the same cell with Erh Boon Tiong started to learn Falun Gong.