Chong, Tan acquitted of street protest charge

(From left) Siew Chiang and Gobind together with Tan and Chong raise their hands in victory outside the courtroom.

KUCHING: Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen and Stampin MP Julian Tan were  discharged and acquitted by the Sessions Court here yesterday from a charge of participating in a street protest two years ago.

Judge Steve Ritikos made the decision without calling for their defence. He ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case against them.

In passing judgment, the judge ruled that there was no street protest during the event, allegedly held on Aug 29, 2015 during the Bersih 4 rally.

They were said to have committed the offence while walking from Kuching Hilton to Song Kheng Hai Recreational Ground where the rally was held.

They were charged under Section 49(2)(c) of the Peaceful Assembly Act, 2014.

Lead counsel Gobind Singh Deo said the decision was important as it defined the meaning of ‘street protest’ under the Peaceful Assembly Act.

He said that people went to the place as stated in the charge sheet to park their cars and meet before heading to the approved venue.

He urged the prosecutor not to appeal the case because there was no ground the appeal could be filed based on the fact of the case.

Chong and Tan’s other lawyers were Roger Chin, Tan Kee Heng and Chong Siew Chiang.

The prosecuting team led by DPP Kamal Bahrin Omar included Hayda Faridzal Abu and Haresh Prakash Somiah.

Seven witnesses were called by the prosecution during the trial.

Before the trial began in March, Chong and Tan made a representation to the Senior Federal Counsel to plead guilty to the charge on two conditions; that the fine must be less than RM2,000 and there would be no appeal from the prosecutors against the sentence.

The representation was however rejected. The prosecutor has14 days to file an appeal if there is any.

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