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24 charged over riot in Singapore

Updated: 2013-12-10 21:19
( Xinhua)

SINGAPORE - A total of 24 persons, all Indian nationals, have been charged in court on Tuesday due to involvement in the riot in Singapore's Little India that happened on Sunday night.

All the 24 were ordered to be remanded for a week to facilitate further investigations. The next mention will be on December 17.

A lawyer representative from The Law Society of Singapore's Pro Bono Service Office appeared at the court and said they are looking to offer legal aid to the accused 24 persons through their volunteer lawyers.

A spokesman for the city-state's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said the ministry is working closely with the Indian high commissioner to facilitate consular access and support for their nationals, including legal representation.

The police arrested 27 suspects initially, and arrested another one on Monday. The police said after investigation, four of them were released from police custody as they were not involved in the riot.

The riot involving some 400 South Asian workers broke out on Sunday evening after a fatal traffic accident in which a worker from India was knocked down by a private bus at Little India, a district known for its distinctively Indian culture.

The police have classified the traffic incident as Causing Death by Negligent Act and had arrested the driver of the private bus, who may face a jail term of up to two years. The driver is out on bail now, pending further investigations.

The subsequent incident was classified as Rioting with Dangerous Weapons. The 24 persons are charged over rioting. If convicted, they face up to seven years imprisonment, and with caning.

Teo Chee Hean, the city-state's deputy prime minister, coordinating minister for national security, and minister for home affairs, said on Tuesday that the investigations are still continuing and the police have made further arrests.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday that a committee of inquiry will be set up to investigate the cause of the rare riot.

"We will form a Committee of Inquiry by the end of this week. We will have names and the terms of reference ready and this will provide a more in-depth look into this incident and also review the current procedures we have for places where foreign workers congregate and see whether there are improvements that are needed, " Teo said in a statement.

The government also introduced a complete ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol this coming weekend in the Race Course Road area, where the riot broke out. Besides, the police have also increased their presence in foreign worker dormitories and places where foreign workers congregate, in order to make sure the situation remains calm.

It was the biggest riot in Singapore in some 40 years, as the city state has been known as one of the safest cities. In the incident, 22 police officers, 12 Singapore Civil Defense Force officers and five auxiliary police officers were injured.