Chong, Tan acquitted of illegal assembly charge after AG drops case

Chong (centre) and Tan (right) with their lawyers and DAP Sarawak members including Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong (second left) and Chong’s father, lawyer Siew Chiang (third right) in a photo call at the courthouse yesterday.

KUCHING: Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Deputy Minister Chong Chieng Jen and former Stampin MP Julian Tan were discharged and acquitted for the second time from a charge of taking part in a Bersih 4.0 assembly in 2015.

Sessions Court Judge Steve Ritikos made the decision following an instruction from the federal Attorney-General’s Chambers to have the charge withdrawn during yesterday’s mention.

The High Court on April 6 this year allowed the prosecution’s appeal against Chong and Tan’s initial discharge and acquittal in 2017, and ordered the case to be remitted to the same Sessions Court for the defence call.

The prosecution was led by Sarawak director of prosecution Isa Hassim and DPP Hayda Faridzal, while the defence team was made up of counsels Roger Chin, Chong Siew Chiang and Michael Kong.

Chin told the court yesterday that it was only fair to discharge and acquit the accused as the charge cannot be left hanging over their heads indefinitely.

He added there must be a finality to the matter as Chong is a deputy minister in the federal cabinet.

Chong, who is Sarawak DAP chairman, is currently Stampin MP and Kota Sentosa assemblyman.

He was Bandar Kuching MP when the rally took place.

Chong and Tan were accused of illegally participating in the Bersih 4.0 street protest when marching from Kuching Hilton along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Borneo, Jalan Tabuan and Jalan Barrack until Padang Song Kheng Hai here, from 2pm to 3pm on Aug 29, 2015.

Meanwhile, national news agency Bernama quoted Chong telling reporters after the court’s decision that he had met personally with Attorney-General Tommy Thomas on the matter two weeks ago, and was surprised that the latter had no knowledge of his case, despite his and Tan’s legal team having written a letter to the AG’s Chambers to drop the case because most cases similar to theirs under Section 4 (2) (c) of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012 were withdrawn.

“This is unacceptable as the letter did not reach the AG,” said Chong, alleging that there were some ‘little Napoleons’ in the AG’s Chambers trying to sabotage the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

“I take this matter seriously. This only goes to show that despite a change of government, there are some in the civil service still practising what the previous government was doing,” he said.

Hence, Chong urged the AG’s Chambers to be accountable for the previous decision to reject his application to drop the case against him, as the PH government allowed peaceful assemblies to be held.

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