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SINGAPORE – 17 activists still on trial, for “illegal assembly” in March last year

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singapore.jpgOn 7 March 2009, Singaporean human rights defender Jufri Salim was released from prison after serving eight-day imprisonment for participating in a protest outside Singapore's Parliament House 15 March last year. The remaining 17 participants, including Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan, are still on trial.

Jufri plead guilty to charges of illegal assembly and participating in a procession without a permit, because his work prevented him from taking part in a long trial. He was sentenced to eight-day imprisonment, after refusing to pay the fine of 1,200 Singapore dollars (About 800 US dollars). "I am glad to serve time for a cause I believe in", he said at the trial.

A small crowd of supporters, including his wife and three young children, greeted him as he was released. 26-year old Jufri is one of the 18 demonstrators prosecuted for taking part in last year's Tak Boleh Tahan (Can't Take It) campaign. The group staged the protest against rising living costs in Singapore to mark World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March 2008.

Throughout 2008, human rights defenders in Singapore have been charged with a range of offences such as illegal assembly and speaking in public without a permit and distributing flyers. Three were imprisoned for wearing t-shirts displaying a kangaroo in judge's robes; four were arrested for holding placards demanding that the Singapore government support the Burmese pro-democracy movement. Others have been subject to investigation and police harassment for distributing flyers containing extracts of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and for holding vigils for prisoners.

Also related:
SINGAPORE – Academic jailed over kangaroo t-shirt, judiciary severely criticised
SINGAPORE – Think Centre mourns the loss of the country's "indomitable lion"

(Photo courtesy of Singapore Democrats)