Batam court rules in favour of S'porean fugitive

In a pretrial hearing against the Riau Islands Police on Monday, the Batam District Court decided in favour of Singaporean Lim Yong Nam who was petitioning for his release from detention.

"The judge decided to grant part of the plaintiff's request to be released from detention on the grounds that his arrest and detention by the first defendant [Riau Islands Police] was illegitimate due to insufficient evidence," said judge Budiman Sitorus, whose voice could hardly be heard compared to earlier sessions.

The courtroom was packed, especially by Lim's supporters.

The court ruling shocked the Riau Islands Police and the Batam Prosecutor's Office, which was the second defendant.

The head of the Riau Islands Police general crimes sub-directorate, Adj. Sr. Comr. Armaini, said he regarded the judge as having failed to understand Law No. 1/1979 on extradition, the basis of Lim's arrest and detention.

"The judge's consideration was unclear. His voice, which was usually strong, was soft today. We feel the judge did not fully understand Law No. 1/1979 on extradition," said Armaini.

However, he added that despite that the police would comply with the court order to release Lim from detention, which he has been in since Oct. 24, 2014. His arrest was reportedly made on the request of the US Justice Department.

"We will free Lim from detention, but we will keep his passport because it's evidence. We will hold the extradition process immediately after getting permission from the President," said Armaini.

According to him, if Lim remains steadfast about returning to his country without a passport, his return will be illegal.

Separately, the Singaporean consul in Batam, Gavin Chay, said Lim should immediately be released and deported to Singapore in accordance with the court decision.

"We bear witness that the judge mentioned that the detention was not in accordance with Indonesian law," said Chay after the session.

According to the consul, on the basis of the court ruling the Singaporean Foreign Ministry and the Singaporean Embassy in Jakarta will ask for an explanation from the Indonesian government about Lim's detention.

Regarding the police's intention to impound Lim's passport, Chay said it was wrong as the judge had ordered the concerned party be released.

"The judge ordered the release. He has been detained for more than six months. His family is in a difficult situation and had to sell their house. We are not the only ones who asked the police to immediately release Lim, but also his family. We will request an explanation from the Foreign Ministry," said Chay.

Lim's lawyer Zevrijn Boy Kanu said he had assumed the court would rule in favour of his client from the start because of the weak evidence presented by the defendants.

"We were optimistic from the start about winning the pretrial hearing today. Lim must be released and returned to Singapore within 24 hours," said Boy.

Lim was one of four Singaporeans accused of illegally exporting US-made radio modules as parts of bomb components to Iran. The case came to light in October 2011, when two of the Singaporeans had been extradited to the US. Since Singapore regarded Lim as innocent in the case, he was not sent to the US.