Officer who arrested Little India riot suspect 'untruthful'

Officer who arrested Little India riot suspect 'untruthful'
Arun Kaliamurthy

A heated exchange erupted in court yesterday after defence counsel Shashi Nathan yesterday claimed that a police officer was lying on the stand.

The accused, Arun Kaliamurthy, is the last of 25 men to be dealt with for their roles in the 2013 Little India riot. He is the second man to claim trial.

The 29-year-old Indian national, who was then living in a rented room in Little India while job hunting, was initially charged with rioting, but is now fighting an amended charge of failure to disperse.

On the second day of his trial yesterday, one of Arun's arresting officers, Station Inspector Adrian Aw, was cross-examined by Mr Nathan, who asked about the arrest. Court documents indicate it took place at a restaurant in Kampong Kapor Road at about 2am on the morning after the Dec 8 riot.

The officer told the court that he checked Arun's identity at the restaurant, but Mr Nathan noted that the accused was not carrying any identification documents that night. He accused the police officer of being "untruthful".

After asking about further details, some of which Station Insp Aw could not recall, Mr Nathan said: "The way you vacillate in your evidence is very alarming."

The lawyer told the court his client's version of events leading to the arrest. According to Arun, Station Insp Aw accused him of being a "gangster" involved in the riot after seeing his arm tattoo.

Arun claimed the officer made insensitive remarks based on his race. Then, the officer or his colleague used "unreasonable force".

Station Insp Aw denied the allegations, and Deputy Public Prosecutor Sellakumaran Sellamuthoo objected to the relevance of Mr Nathan's questioning.

The DPP said the charge was about Arun failing to leave the vicinity of Race Course Road and Kerbau Road despite being lawfully commanded to disperse earlier in the night, and the details Mr Nathan was pursuing had "no bearing" on the case. Mr Nathan said he was trying to test the veracity of the officer's testimony.

But District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said trying to show "improper police conduct" would not impact the dispersal charge. "I'm not saying it doesn't matter if the police were brutal or not, but it is not relevant to the charge," the judge said, disallowing Mr Nathan from asking similar questions.

The trial was adjourned after the prosecution acknowledged no effort was made to bring a key witness to the trial. The witness, a friend of Arun's who was with him on the night of the riot, has returned to India after being convicted of assaulting a police officer.

The trial is expected to continue today, depending on the availability of witnesses.

This article was first published on April 29, 2015.
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