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Former SMRT bus drivers refuse to plead guilty

Their lawyers will meet prosecutors in chambers next Friday to set trial dates. -ST
Jermyn Chow

Mon, Feb 04, 2013
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The four alleged ringleaders of last November's illegal bus strike look set to go to trial after they rebuffed the prosecution's earlier offer to amend their charges and refused to plead guilty on Friday.

Their lawyers will meet prosecutors in chambers next Friday to set trial dates.

If they had accepted the offer, the four men, Gao Yue Qiang, 32, Liu Xiangying, 33, Wang Xianjie, 39, and He Jun Ling, 32, would have been accused of taking part in the Nov 26 illegal strike, rather than instigating it.

But both the offences still carry the same maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The four men are among 171 drivers from China who took part in the strike on Nov 26 and the 88 who stayed away again the following day. All four were at the pre-trial conference at the Subordinate Court yesterday, along with Chinese Embassy officials.

He's lawyer Choo Zheng Xi told reporters after the meeting that he needed more time to consult his client and had requested that the Feb 8 pre-trial conference be pushed back but this was turned down by the judge.

He disclosed that he was in the midst of translating some 200 pages of messages in Chinese that were posted by about 100 SMRT bus drivers, including He, on Chinese social networking portal QQ to get more information to prepare his defence.

"It is just not possible to complete the process by Feb 8," he said.

When asked about He's allegation of being punched when he was in police custody, Mr Choo said he might refer to them in court if the trial goes ahead.

Liu's lawyer Mark Goh said yesterday his client is likely to still plead not guilty and claim trial.

Separately, Gao discharged his lawyer Tan Wen Hsien and is said to be looking for another lawyer to represent him.

 

I didn't know it was illegal: Bus driver charged with instigating strike
Click on thumbnails to view. (Photos: ST, TNP)

jermync@sph.com.sg

 


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