Defence closes case for first man to claim trial

Defence closes case for first man to claim trial
Some of those involved in the Little India riot being repatriated on 19 December 2013, after being held at the Admiralty West Prison.

SINGAPORE - The defence for the first man to claim trial over his alleged role in the Little India riot closed its case yesterday with a verdict expected on June 23.

Construction worker Mahalingam Thavamani, 27, was initially accused of rioting but the charge was amended to one of obstructing a police officer by defying orders to leave a restricted area.

If found guilty, the Indian national faces a jail term of up to eight years and a fine.

Thavamani said he was only waiting for his younger brother, who has a history of fainting spells and who had gone to a toilet, when approached by police near Belilios Road last Dec 8.

The sixth day of hearings lasted barely half an hour after District Judge Salina Ishak halted defence lawyer B.J. Lean's questioning due to irrelevance.

Mr Lean was questioning Sergeant Rezuwan Kamarudin, who had been ordered to take Thavamani and nine other suspects to the Police Cantonment Complex on the night of the riot.

Sgt Rezuwan had also lodged a police report - acting on orders - in which he said the 10 men were arrested "for rioting".

The judge interjected after Mr Lean questioned the classification, saying the sergeant was doing what was "just his duty".

She said she "did not see the relevance" of the line of questioning, adding: "I know what you're trying to get at, but he's not the right person."

Three police officers called as prosecution witnesses had failed to recognise Thavamani.

Two of the 25 men charged have been convicted of rioting and jailed for 30 and 33 months, with each given three strokes of the cane. Six others have been jailed for 15 to 18 weeks on amended counts.

This article was published on May 21 in The Straits Times.

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