Little India riot
Five men accused of being involved in the Little India riot are getting new lawyers again - after their previous lawyer M. Ravi dropped them earlier this month.
This will mark their second change of lawyers: the Indian nationals, whose cases are among 11 still pending, had let go of the pro bono lawyers assigned to them by the Law Society's Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS), to privately engage the activist lawyer.
Mr Ravi told The Straits Times last week that the five men - Ravi Arun Vengatesh, 25, Selvanathan Murugaeson, 28, Periyaiah Ganesan, 25, Arun Kaliamurthy, 28, and Rajendran Mohan, 26 - had in December approached him for pro bono help which he "could not in good conscience deny".
Mr Ravi said he was "reluctant" to discharge the five men, but "evolving circumstances" - such as other cases he has since taken on - led to his decision.
"Client interests are paramount... CLAS are in a better position to aid the accused persons in terms of resources and time," he said, as one lawyer will be assigned to each accused. "I had discussed with the accused persons and they were agreeable to CLAS representing them," he added.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Law Society told The Straits Times: "It is problematic when accused persons ask for pro bono lawyers, are given such volunteers, then discharge them, then ask for pro bono lawyers again."
"CLAS believes this will be difficult, given that the five had discharged their first set of pro bono lawyers," he added.
"The five cases are almost at trial stage, which means that the new pro bono lawyers will have very little time to prepare." Still, CLAS said it will try its best to help the five, who are "without means".
Mr Ravi had earlier filed two applications at the High Court - both of which he later withdrew - linked to last December's Little India riot, the worst public disturbance here in 40 years.
He had asked for charges against his five clients to be quashed, alleging that the Committee of Inquiry into the riot was in contempt of court.
In an unprecedented ruling on June 24, the High Court ordered that costs of S$1,000 be borne by the five men and Mr Ravi was to reimburse them the cash, after finding he had failed to act as a competent solicitor.
Mr Ravi also filed a judicial review application against daily reporting conditions set by the immigration authorities against Arun, Rajendran and Ravi Arun, who managed to post bail. The trio were ordered on May 7 to pay S$3,000 when the application was withdrawn.When asked if they could foot the bill, and if so, whether he would reimburse them the money, Mr Ravi said he was unable to comment.
Among the 25 accused in the Little India case, five have been given jail terms of 18 to 33 months each for rioting.
Another nine, whose rioting charges were amended to ones such as failure to disperse, were each handed jail terms of between 15 and 36 weeks.
This article was first published on July 23, 2014.
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