In a controversial decision made last week, the Singapore Subordinate Court declared two Falun Gong protesters guilty of "harassment" for displaying a banner in front of Singapore's Chinese Embassy last July. Trial observers have noted multiple irregularities in the proceedings, and the defendants rejected the outcome outright. "This trial is an insult to administration of justice in Singapore," said defendant Ms. Ng Chye Huay, upon hearing the verdict from District Court judge Siva Shanmugam.
"I feel sorry for the judgment you have chosen," Mr. Erh Boon Tiong, the other defendant, said.
Ng and Erh both stated that they had done nothing wrong and refused to pay fines of 1,500 and 1,000 Singapore dollars, US$975 and US$650, respectively. In lieu of paying the fines, the judge ordered that they correspondingly spend 15 and 10 days in prison, where they are currently being held.
The defendants said that the judge dismissed all of their evidence and four out of their five witnesses as "irrelevant." At the trial's conclusion, Ng and Erh stated their wish to launch an immediate appeal to the Singapore High Court.
"This is almost like a secret hearing, not a real trial," said Diana Wang, spokesperson for the Singapore Falun Buddha Society, which represents Falun Gong practitioners.
"Without witnesses and evidence, what can a trial do?" she said.
Ng and Erh, moreover, had no legal representation in court after their lawyer, Madasamy Ravi, was unexpectedly suspended from the bar in November.
"It would take too much time and money to bring a new lawyer up to speed on the case," said Sally Sun, Erh's wife, "so they defended themselves."
For a trial to be fair, the evidence of both parties should be considered and weighed, Singapore general litigation lawyer Alfred Dodwell told The Epoch Times. Dodwell had previously represented Falun Gong practitioners.
"I don't know what the reason is behind the judge's decision for not having looked at it [the defendants' evidence]," he said.
The judge rejected the defendants' plea to file a motion to the High Court during the proceedings, said Wang. The motion was to challenge the judge's rejection of the defendants' witnesses and evidence. New rules allowing a presiding judge to decide on the validity of launching a criminal motion were put into place just last month, Wang said.
In a rare pronouncement more typically reserved for dangerous offenders, judge Shanmugam demanded that the Falun Gong practitioners serve their jail sentences prior to initiating their appeal.
A 'Miscellaneous Offense'
When they were arrested on July 20, along with a third protestor who was subsequently deported, Ng and Erh were meditating in front of the Chinese Embassy. Behind them they had placed a banner reading, "Stop Persecution of Falun Gong in China."
July 20, 2006 marked the seven-year anniversary of the violent campaign against Falun Gong in China. Every July 20, Falun Gong practitioners gather opposite Chinese embassies around the world to protest their plight in China.
In making the case, the prosecution alleged that the accused "displayed insulting writing … within the sight of persons likely to be caused harassment." Ng and Erh were charged under the city-state's Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.
The prosecutors argued that whether the banner statement was true or not was irrelevant to the proceedings. The fact that a Chinese Embassy employee was "annoyed" by the banner showed that harassment had taken place, they said.
But Dodwell believes that ascertaining the truth of the statements on the banner is crucial to determining whether harassment took place.
"[Otherwise] I cannot speak the truth because obviously I will be harassing someone if I am pointing out the truth to them. … It will be painful for them and it'll be a source of annoyance for them. But the truth has to be spoken," he said.
The state policy of persecuting Falun Gong practitioners in China has been extensively documented by the United Nations and condemned by numerous government and human rights organizations worldwide.
Dodwell said he found it strange that Singapore's often-used defamation laws were not applied in this case if the allegations on the banner are contested by the Chinese Embassy.
"If the persecution is not true … then [the Chinese authorities] should have brought this lawsuit against the perpetrator of this defamation and clear out this rumor once and for all."
There have been no documented attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to sue Falun Gong practitioners outside of mainland China to date. However, Chinese officials have been sued overseas for libel against Falun Gong and crimes against humanity committed in the persecution of its practitioners.