Jolovan Wham fined for organising public assembly without permit, chooses to go to jail instead
SINGAPORE: Social worker and activist Jolovan Wham was on Thursday (Feb 21) fined S$3,200 over a public assembly he organised two years ago without a permit and refusing to sign a police statement.
Wham, 39, indicated he would not pay the fine and will instead serve jail time of 16 days in default.
The activist had been found guilty last month of organising the event featuring a live speech by Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-Fung in November 2016.
He also refused to sign a statement he gave to the police in relation to the event, forming the basis for the second charge he claimed trial to.
The prosecution had argued that the event - titled Civil Disobedience and Social Movements - was a public one, with thousands invited and 366 people indicating they were interested in attending.
The police had also told Wham that he needed a permit for the event as Mr Wong was a foreigner, but he went ahead with it anyway at the Agora in Sin Ming Lane on Nov 26, 2016.
Wham's lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam argued that the requirement for a permit breaches Wham's constitutional right of freedom of assembly, and said the event was a discussion.
He also explained that Wham's decision not to sign the witness statement he gave to the police stemmed from his personal practice to sign only what he had a copy of.
This was because he advocates for migrant workers to do the same. The police officer involved testified during the trial that he had told Wham that not signing the statement may constitute an offence.
According to the Criminal Procedure Code, an accused person must be given copies of the cautioned statements, but there is no rule requiring them to be given copies of witness statements.
Addressing Wham in a packed courtroom, District Judge Kessler Soh said his "wilful refusal to comply", despite having been informed that the event required a permit, was an aggravating factor.
Wham's defence lawyer said he would be applying for bail, pending appeal against conviction.
The activist could have been fined up to S$5,000 for organising a public assembly without a permit.
For refusing to sign the police statement, he could have been jailed for up to three months, fined up to S$2,500, or both.
He had been found guilty of contempt of court in October last year over a Facebook post he put up alleging that Malaysia's judges are more independent than Singapore's in cases with political implications.
On top of this, Wham faces other charges in relation to a protest he allegedly staged in a train in 2017, as well as a public assembly he allegedly organised outside Changi Prison that same year.