Jolovan Wham found guilty of organising public assembly without permit, refusing to sign police statement

Jolovan Wham found guilty of organising public assembly without permit, refusing to sign police statement

Jolovan Wham at State Court Dec 13 (4)
Jolovan Wham outside the State Courts on Dec 13, 2018. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Activist Jolovan Wham was found guilty on Thursday (Jan 3) of organising a public assembly without a permit and refusing to sign a police statement about the event.

Wham, 39, had organised the event, titled Civil Disobedience and Social Movements, at The AGORA in Sin Ming Lane on Nov 26, 2016.

The event featured a live speech by Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-Fung via video call, as well as speeches by fellow activists Kirsten Han and Seelan Palay.

Wham went ahead with the event even though he had been told by a police officer that he needed a permit as Mr Wong was a foreigner, the court heard.

When an investigating officer took Wham's statement on Dec 20 that year, he confirmed it to be true and correct but refused to sign the statement, saying he would sign it only if he was given a copy.

Despite being told that refusal to do so was an offence, Wham persisted in not signing the statement.

According to the prosecution, the investigating officer had told Wham that he could not be given a copy of the statement as it was "a confidential document meant for police". The officer then recorded two cautioned statements from Wham, who signed them after being told he would receive copies.

According to the Criminal Procedure Code, the accused must be given copies of the cautioned statements, but there is no rule requiring them to be given copies of witness statements.

EVENT WAS JUST A DISCUSSION, SAYS DEFENCE

Wham's defence lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam had urged the judge to acquit his client of the charges, saying the prosecution had not proven his liability for them beyond a reasonable doubt.

He argued that the requirement for a permit "breaches the accused's constitutional right of freedom of assembly".

He also said that the event was a "discussion" that posed no immediate threat to public order, safety or security, and did not publicise any specific cause.

In response, Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Nicholas Wuan said the event was clearly meant to publicise a cause, as was indicated in the very title of the event.

District Judge Kessler Soh said Wham's decision not to sign the statement was "unjustified".

"I do not find the defence has raised any valid defence," he said.

The brief hearing was attended by Wham's friends and supporters, including Ms Han and Daniel De Costa, who was charged in December over an allegedly defamatory article he submitted to The Online Citizen.

Wham had been found guilty of contempt of court in October last year for a Facebook post he published, which alleged that Malaysia's judges are more independent than Singapore's for cases with political implications.

He will be back in court on Jan 23 for sentencing for the latest convictions.

For organising a public assembly without a permit, he can be fined up to S$5,000.

For refusing to sign the police statement, he can be jailed for up to three months, fined up to S$2,500, or both.

Source: CNA/ll(hm/hs)

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