Singaporean held in Riau: MFA sends note

Diplomatic note sent as boat captain remains in custody after being acquitted of illegal fishing

Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry has sent a diplomatic note to the Indonesian authorities against the detention of a Singaporean boat captain held in custody, despite a court acquitting him of fishing illegally in the country's waters.

Riau Islands provincial law and human rights chief Ohan Suryana said the note was "a protest against the handling of legal proceedings against one of its citizens", he told reporters, referring to Captain Shoo Chiau Huat, 50.

Mr Shoo had seven Singaporeans and six Malaysians on board MV Selin when the boat was caught for trespassing by the navy on April 16 in Tanjung Berakit waters, off Bintan island.

All the passengers were deported about a week after their arrests.

Mr Shoo was charged with illegal fishing in Indonesian waters, but a local court found insufficient evidence and acquitted him in July.

But he remains in the custody of local immigration authorities after he was slapped with immigration offences instead.

Tanjung Pinang immigration official Said Noviansyah had previously said his office was investigating Mr Shoo because he allegedly entered Indonesian territory without permission.

The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) had told The Straits Times in August it was monitoring his case "with concern" and had "sought clarification on the legal basis for Mr Shoo's detention".

Mr Ohan said Indonesia's foreign ministry had wanted Mr Shoo to be deported, but it was not viable "due to legal considerations".

"We will go ahead. This is evident as we had won during the pre-trial... I'm optimistic that he (Mr Shoo) will be convicted," he added.

Yesterday, Mr Shoo attended a second hearing at the Tanjung Pinang district court over his alleged immigration violations.

His lawyer Herman Black said the hearing went ahead after a pre-trial motion against his detention for allegedly entering Indonesian waters without proper documentation in September was rejected by a panel of judges.

"(It's) still in the early stages. Today we have listened to the charges made by the prosecutors," he said.

"With this hearing, I see that my client is being coerced into being made a guilty party. I'm concerned."

Another Singaporean boat captain, Mr Ricky Tan Poh Hui, and his crew and nine passengers, are also in the custody of local authorities after their arrest on Aug 21 for allegedly trespassing in Indonesia's waters.

Correction note: An earlier version of our article said Indonesian ambassador to Singapore I Gede Ngurah Swajaya had personally handed a diplomatic note from Singapore to Riau Islands provincial law and human rights chief Ohan Suryana. The Indonesian Embassy in Singapore has clarified that Mr Ngurah never handed the note to Mr Ohan. This has been corrected.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'S'porean held in Riau: MFA sends note'. Print Edition | Subscribe