S'porean colleagues help drivers post bail
$50,000 raised; some lawyers in talks to offer 4 men pro bono defence. -ST
SINGAPORE - The foreign bus drivers accused of being the ringleaders in last week's strike have posted bail - apparently with the help of their Singaporean colleagues.
All four Chinese nationals were released on Thursday, but had their passports impounded.
Sources close to the case said the Singaporeans who helped come up with the total of $50,000 in bail included local SMRT bus drivers.
Two groups of lawyers are also in talks about the possibility of representing the four men, who have been charged with instigating the strike by SMRT drivers unhappy about their pay and living conditions.
Gao Yue Qiang, 32, Liu Xiangying, 33, and Wang Xianjie, 39, were released on bail of $10,000 each.
The fourth driver, 32-year-old He Jun Ling, who faces two charges, was out on $20,000 bail.
Last Friday, a representative from the Chinese Embassy here, asked lawyer Gloria James to help defend the four men on a pro bono basis.
Ms James, who was not in court on Thursday, told The Straits Times: "I have been in touch with the embassy official since last Friday (and) I have given him the names of the lawyers who volunteer their service to help these drivers.
"The drivers would decide who they want to represent them... I will try to represent at least one of the drivers."
Ms James, who is an active volunteer with the Law Society of Singapore's Pro Bono Services Office, added that many people are not aware of such schemes to help foreigners here.
Mr Mark Goh said he told the drivers to consider whether they wanted his firm to represent them, and if they did, his firm would take up the case on a pro bono basis.
He added that he had been approached to represent them on Thursday by Mr Jolovan Wham of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics (Home).
Mr Wham - who was acting in his personal capacity - was at court to assist the Chinese nationals, along with lawyer M. Ravi.
Even though all four drivers were granted bail in the morning, three of them could not be released until later as they did not have their passports with them.
Liu was the first to be bailed and left the Subordinate Courts building at about 4.30pm. The other three left just before 6pm.
When approached, all four declined to speak to the media. But He nodded his head when asked if he would call home to tell his family that he had been bailed.
The strikers were unhappy about the difference between their wages and those of their Malaysian counterparts.
On Monday, driver Bao Feng Shan, 38, was sentenced to six weeks in jail for his role in the strike. Twenty-nine others were sent back to China earlier this week.
The four drivers are due to appear in court again next Wednesday. Home chief executive Bridget Tan told The Straits Times that the organisation was not sheltering them but was ready to do so if approached.
Additional reporting by Amelia Tan
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