SINGAPORE: Activist Gilbert Goh Keow Wah went on trial on Monday (May 30) for staging a protest outside the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) without a permit and refusing to sign a police statement.
Goh, 60, was represented by lawyer Lim Tean, who said he will argue that his client "was not publicising a cause" and that the charge against him is "vague" and "fundamentally flawed".
On May 1, 2021, Goh held up a placard outside the ICA building that read: "Please ban all flights from India we are not racist! Just being cautious".
This took place soon after the Government barred some visitors from India from entering Singapore in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases there.
Goh thereby allegedly took part in a "public assembly to publicise a cause, namely, to persuade the Government to ban all flights from India", charge sheets stated .
Daryl Sim Pei Xuan, a 31-year-old public affairs consultant, accompanied Goh to the ICA building and photographed him holding up the placard.
Between 11.30am and 11.43am on May 1, 2021, the pair moved to three different locations around the ICA building to take the photos.
Goh held the placard up for "a few seconds" to up to about 29 seconds on these occasions, according to court documents.
The pair's activity around the ICA building was captured in closed-circuit television footage, which was played in court.
After taking photos at the third location, Goh tore up the placard and threw it away in a rubbish bin nearby. The placard has not been recovered.
At about 1.30pm that same day, Goh uploaded one of the photos on his Facebook page. This post has received about 730 comments, 2,500 shares and 2,700 likes as of May 13.
The police were alerted to the case on May 1, 2021 and started investigations.
Goh subsequently uploaded other photos of himself holding the placard in five posts on his Facebook page on May 14, May 18, May 22, Jun 3 and Jun 14, 2021.
Some of these posts had captions like "Save Singapore" and "Stop Singaporean genocide close the border". They are still accessible to the public.
Goh is also accused of refusing to sign a police statement recorded from him by a Singapore Police Force investigation officer at about 3pm on May 11, 2021.
He refused to sign the statement despite being informed by the officer that failure to do so was an offence.
Goh was accompanied by several supporters in court on Monday.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Andre Chong and Yohanes Ng are leading evidence from three witnesses, all of whom testified on the first day of trial.
The first witness was Mr Sim, whom the prosecution said received a call from Goh the day before the alleged offence asking him to help take some photos.
On the stand, Mr Sim said he became acquainted with Goh more than five years ago and that they met from time to time, although not since the alleged offence.
He said that he agreed to Goh's request without being told what he would be photographing and what the photos were for. He also testified that he took the photos on Goh's phone.
In cross-examination, Mr Lim asked Mr Sim if he was in fact the one who had suggested that Goh go to the ICA facility and take photos there.
Mr Sim said that he could not recall whether this was the case, and repeated this answer when the question was put to him a few times.
Mr Lim suggested to Mr Sim that his memories of how he took the photos would be "vivid" because the police investigations started shortly after their activity at the ICA building.
However, Mr Sim replied that this was not so because the case "closed" for him after the police took his statement, and his memory of it "faded".
Mr Lim then asked Mr Sim whether he had in fact taken the photos on his own phone, to which Mr Sim said he could not recall whether this was so.
The prosecution and defence also questioned the investigating officer who took Goh's statement and a member of the public who reported Goh's Facebook post to police.
Mr Lim then asked for time to make submissions, describing Goh's case as a "novel situation". The trial continues on Tuesday.
Under the Public Order Act, those who take part in a public assembly without a permit can be fined up to S$3,000.
The punishment for refusing to sign a police statement is jail for up to three months, a fine of up to S$2,500 or both.