Jeremy Au Yong
The Straits Times
Headline: 19 on illegal assembly trial
IT WAS a lively start to the first day of court proceedings for 19 people accused of demonstrating in front of Parliament House in March.
The 19, who include Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin, have been charged with taking part in an illegal assembly and a subsequent procession.
The group piled into Court 5 of the Subordinate Courts at 9.30am on Thursday, and extra chairs had to be put in place to accomodate all of them.
The public gallery was filled with about 20 people, including supporters of the SDP and those on trial.
Amid the noise and commotion as the defendants were taking their seats before proceedings started, one of them, blogger Yap Keng Ho, 45, remarked to the rest: 'This is the largest pasar malam in the history of Singapore'.
During the course of proceedings before District Judge Chia Wee Kiat, several of those who were charged rose to ask questions or make applications.
There were requests for copies video clips taken by the police of the March 15 event; one accused sought an adjournment as he wanted to get back to his job; and one asked for the Court to observe a minute's silence for the late opposition polition JB Jeyaretnam, who was to have represented several of the activists.
But the first order of formal business on Thursday morning for District Judge Chia was to deal with the decision by one of the accused, blogger Ng E-Jay, 31, who said that he was pleading guilty.
He told The Straits Times that he had decided to do so just on Wednesday.
Proceedings were then adjourned so that his case could be dealt with before the trial of the remaining 18 accused could continue.
Ng was fined $600, or six days in jail in default, after he admitted to the charge.