Madrasah student attacks: Man hires lawyer for accused

The Madrasah Al-Ma’arif Al-Islamiah in Geylang.
The Madrasah Al-Ma’arif Al-Islamiah in Geylang. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

A member of one of Singapore's oldest Arab-Muslim families has stepped forward to pay for a lawyer for the security officer accused of attacking three madrasah students.

The entrepreneur, who wants to be anonymous, is in his 40s and comes from the Aljunied family - descendants of Singapore's first Arab settler Syed Omar Ali Aljunied, who built Singapore's first mosque, and his family.

He told The Sunday Times that he is stumping up the money "purely out of love and compassion".

Security officer Koh Weng Onn, 48, was charged earlier this month with kicking a 16-year-old girl in the thigh in what court papers called a "racially aggravated" act.

He was also accused of swinging a plastic bag containing a filled 1.5-litre water bottle at two 14-year-old girls in separate attacks, hitting them in the face.

The donor said he made his decision after hearing of Koh's arrest and got in touch with lawyer Sunil Sudheesan, who will be representing Koh.

He has not met the accused's family. He said he was inspired by his forefathers, who had built madra- sahs, mosques and churches in Singapore. "I'm sure my forefathers would have done the same (for Koh)," he said.

The father of two children aged 13 and 11 added: "I want to inspire (in) them that ignorance and anger can only be neutralised with acts of compassion and love and mercy."

In the aftermath of the attacks, government and community leaders of all races have stressed that racially motivated acts of violence will not be condoned, urging communities to stand united against such acts.

The accused's older brother, Mr Mohammad Johan Koh, said: "I was very surprised to hear this - that a kind person wanted to help."

He did not expect to find out that the anonymous person was from the Arab-Muslim community.

The 49-year-old relief security guard added that his family hope to send their appreciation to the man, and to thank him in person.

"We know our financial condition; even if we decided to get a lawyer, we might not have been able to pay the legal fees," he said.

Mr Sudheesan, of law firm Quahe Woo and Palmer, said it is quite rare for an anonymous benefactor to offer to pay for an accused's full legal representation. He added: "It's humbling that someone thought well enough of me to recommend me to the benefactor."

Koh has been remanded for psychiatric observation. The case is scheduled to be mentioned tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'Madrasah student attacks: Man hires lawyer for accused'. Print Edition | Subscribe