Little India Riot: Eight more riot suspects held, 24 workers charged

Arrested riot suspects arriving at the courts yesterday. The Indian nationals holding work permits did not bear visible injuries, except for one, whose head was bandaged. -- ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH
Arrested riot suspects arriving at the courts yesterday. The Indian nationals holding work permits did not bear visible injuries, except for one, whose head was bandaged. -- ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

3,700 workers from 10 dormitories interviewed; investigations in full swing

Eight more suspects were arrested early yesterday morning for their alleged involvement in Sunday's mayhem in Little India, on the same day that 24 other foreign workers were charged in court.

The suspects and those charged are Indian nationals. Those produced in court are work permit holders aged between 22 and 40. Dressed in identical bright red polo tees, they did not bear visible injuries except for one, whose head was bandaged.

The Straits Times understands that the red shirts are standard attire for persons-in-custody. The alleged rioters were silent and had their hands behind their backs as charges were read to them in Tamil.

Although their court appearance had been scheduled for the morning, proceedings were delayed till afternoon for the Indian High Commission to provide legal assistance to the suspects.

After charges were read to the men in two batches, lawyer Amarick Gill told the court on behalf of the Law Society that the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS) was available to the suspects. He added that the CLAS office was working with the Indian High Commission "on securing a number of lawyers to provide legal representation to all accused persons".

At a briefing for the media yesterday, the police said investigations were in full swing, with 3,700 foreign workers from 10 dormitories across the island interviewed so far. Of these, 176 had their statements taken at the Criminal Investigation Department, including those who were subsequently arrested.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in South Korea for an official visit, posted on his Facebook page yesterday: "Keeping track of follow up to the Little India riot. It is in good hands."

Giving his update, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said details of the Committee of Inquiry ordered by the PM into the unrest would be ready by the weekend.

In a statement on the Indian nationals who were charged, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it would work closely with the Indian High Commission to ensure consular and legal access to the 24 men, who will be remanded at the Police Cantonment Complex for a week while further investigations take place.

Four others originally arrested - two Bangladeshi nationals, an Indian and a Singapore permanent resident who is Malaysian - were released yesterday after police determined via photos and videos from the public that they were not involved in the riot.

Following yesterday's court proceedings, the CLAS lawyer, Mr Gill, had a brief stand-off with social activist Vincent Wijeysingha.

Outside the courthouse, Mr Wijeysingha asked him whether there was a "nefarious plot" by the Law Society to prevent activist lawyers like Mr M. Ravi from representing the alleged rioters.

Brushing him off by saying it was an unfair question, Mr Gill said: "We don't know... anything is possible."

yanliang@sph.com.sg