The police officer who ordered the arrest of construction worker Mahalingam Thavamani on the night of the Little India riot told the court yesterday he could not recognise the Indian national.
Thavamani, who was initially charged with rioting on Dec 8, faces an amended charge of obstructing Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Subramaniam N., for which he could face up to eight years in jail and/or a fine if convicted.
But the officer, who was called to the stand as a prosecution witness, said: "I'm not able to recognise the accused now, as my encounter with him (was) brief."
Special Operations Command officer Lim Ke Wei, who assisted in the arrest by handing over the cuffs, also testified that he could not recognise Thavamani in court. That was because he had been focusing on a group or rioters who were pelting officers with projectiles from across the road.
The third witness yesterday was a police sergeant who held the accused's hands together while he was cuffed. But his testimony was heard behind closed doors to protect his identity as an "intelligence officer".
Defence lawyer B. J. Lean is arguing that the allegations made against his client, the first to claim trial among 25 men charged for their alleged role in the riot, are false and the police "made a mistake".
The DSP testified that he ordered Thavamani's arrest as the accused "was determined to enter Belilios Road" - an area in the vicinity of the riot that was being cleared by the police - despite being warned not to.
But Mr Lean said his client had merely wanted to wait at the road's mouth for his younger brother, whom he had thought had gone to a nearby toilet.
Mr Lean added that Thavamani is certain he had not seen DSP Subramaniam that night.
Officer Lim also said he could not identify the arresting officers at that time as he did not know them.
Today, the prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan, is expected to call one more police officer - Assistant Superintendent of Police Jonathan Tang. He was one of the first officers at the riot's scene.
Two foreign workers who were with the accused that night are also expected to testify.
Thavamani will likely be the defence's sole witness.
Six other Indian nationals have pleaded guilty to failing to disperse and were sentenced to between 15 and 18 weeks' jail each. The cases of the other 18 accused are pending in court.
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.
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