Indonesian court dismisses charge against Singaporean boat captain Shoo Chiau Huat

Shoo Chiau Huat (second from left) speaking to his interpreter and lawyer in court on May 3, 2017.
Shoo Chiau Huat (second from left) speaking to his interpreter and lawyer in court on May 3, 2017.PHOTO: F. PANGESTU
Singaporean Captain Shoo Chiau Huat (right) at a court hearing in Tanjung Pinang, Riau province, on Oct 27, 2016.
Singaporean Captain Shoo Chiau Huat (right) at a court hearing in Tanjung Pinang, Riau province, on Oct 27, 2016. PHOTO: F. PANGESTU

JAKARTA - The Tanjung Pinang district court on Wednesday (May 3) dismissed the charge against Singaporean fishing boat captain Shoo Chiau Huat for sailing in Indonesia's waters without a permit.

Now only one thing stands in the way of his release and return home - the prosecution's appeal against his acquittal for the earlier charge of illegal fishing.

The 50-year-old told The Straits Times after the ruling that he was pleased with the court's decision not to proceed against him for a third time.

"But there is still the verdict of the appeal against my acquittal on the fishery case and I'm still held at the immigration detention centre. There is no information about my deportation yet," he said.

According to immigration officials, Shoo's deportation process will begin only after a higher court rules on the prosecution's appeal.

 

"It could take several days after a court ruling," said Mr Irwanto Suhaili, a senior Immigration Officer in Tanjung Pinang, when asked when Shoo will be released.

"We need something in writing to say he is cleared of all indictments, then we can deport him," he added. "Up to this minute we haven't received that."

Shoo is one of two Singaporean boat captains to have been detained for such an extended period in Tanjung Pinang.

The other, Mr Ricky Tan Poh Hui, was released on Tuesday from the Tanjung Pinang Naval Base, where he had been held since August last year, after he was sentenced to six months' probation and fined 5 million rupiah (S$520) last Thursday for trespassing in Indonesian waters.

Shoo was at the helm of the MV Selin when he was arrested for illegal fishing by the Indonesian Navy on April 16 in 2016 in Tanjung Berakit waters, off Bintan island.

He was found not guilty of illegal fishing in July last year but he was charged with immigration offences after his acquittal.

In January, he decided to plead guilty to the charge of entering Indonesia illegally, and paid the fine last month in the hope of being released.

But on April 4, he was charged with sailing in Indonesia's waters without a permit under the country's shipping laws.

Chief Judge Awani Setyowati said the court decided to dismiss the latest charge against Shoo because it was contradictory to Indonesia's laws to proceed against an offender on two different provisions for the same act.

"If an act is in breach of more than one criminal charge, only one provision should be used for prosecution," added the judge, who noted that Shoo was acquitted previously in the fishery offence, and had paid a fine after pleading guilty to the second immigration offence.

Court officials could not say on Wednesday when the decision on the prosecution's appeal will be heard at the Supreme Court.

But another senior immigration official, Mr Elbertus Rustanto, told The Straits Times that Shoo will be released, without delay, if the Supreme Court dismisses the prosecution's appeal.

"We cannot wait too long, because he is not an Indonesian but a foreigner," he added.