Singaporean boat captain Shoo Chiau Huat remained behind bars yesterday after a district court ruled he must answer a charge of entering Indonesia illegally, ending hopes he would be released from jail the same day.
Shoo, who was arrested on April 16 for illegal fishing and has been held in a Tanjung Pinang jail since, is due to face trial next Tuesday. The judges rejected the defence's argument that the immigration charge against Shoo was redundant because it was tied to his arrest for illegal fishing. He was acquitted of that charge in July because of insufficient evidence.
According to the Tanjung Pinang court's ruling, Shoo was cleared of an offence under the Fisheries Act but is now facing a fresh charge of "entering Indonesia without a permit" under the Immigration Act. The Fisheries Act carries a maximum of five years' imprisonment.
"The (new) indictment is different, so it is too early to conclude that Nebis In Idem applies; therefore it is necessary that we hear the evidence in the proceedings," said Judge Elyta Ras Ginting.
Nebis In Idem refers to the principle of double jeopardy, which bars a defendant from being tried again for a similar charge following a legitimate acquittal.
Shoo was carrying 13 passengers from Singapore and Malaysia on board the MV Selin when the boat was stopped by the Indonesian navy in Tanjung Berakit waters, off Bintan island, for trespassing in April.
All the passengers were deported about a week after their arrests but Shoo was charged with illegal fishing, not trespassing. He was later cleared of that charge but local immigration authorities then stepped in. Prosecutors said they intend to push for the maximum sentence of one year in prison for entering Indonesia illegally.
The 50-year-old appeared dejected and declined to comment when approached by The Straits Times.