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Malaysian rights group blasts Singapore govt, law society after prominent lawyer suspended

Lawyers for Liberty says the suspension of M Ravi will affect many Malaysians on death row in Singapore in their bid for a fair trial.

Staff Writers
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Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against the death penalty at the Speakers' Corner in Singapore on April 3, 2022. Photo: AFP
Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against the death penalty at the Speakers' Corner in Singapore on April 3, 2022. Photo: AFP

Kuala Lumpur-based Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has questioned the silence of the Singapore Law Society over the suspension of prominent lawyer M Ravi, calling it a continuation of the "harassment and intimidation of lawyers" for representing Malaysians facing the death sentence under the city-state's controversial drug laws.

"What is worse is that despite international recognition for his important work, Singapore’s Law Society fails to protect their own and chose to turn their back on the barrage of attacks he has suffered from government institutions," LFL said in a statement.

Yesterday, a Singapore court suspended Ravi for five years due to his criticism of the way Singapore prosecuted one of his clients, whose death sentence was set aside and replace with 15 years' imprisonment.

Ravi was hauled to court over the remarks he had made in a media interview following his successful representation in the appeals court to set aside the death sentence of Malaysian citizen Gobi Avedian, who is due to be released next year.

He refused to retract his comment that the public prosecutor had been "overzealous" in prosecuting Gobi, blaming this for the death sentence handed down on his client. 

"Instead of being lauded for his work in preventing the wrongful execution of Gobi, M Ravi was instead targeted for his comment that the Singapore AGC was 'overzealous' in dealing with Gobi’s case. 

"Ravi’s comment was fair and proven to be true by the landmark decision of the court in Gobi Avedian’s case overturning the death sentence," said LFL director Zaid Malek.

He said Ravi had only done what any lawyer was expected to do in speaking up for his client "without fear of favour".

He also reminded Singapore of the United Nations' "Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers", saying governments must ensure that lawyers can carry out their work "without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference" and without "suffering or being threatened with prosecution or sanctions for their professional duties". 

"Singapore has time and again violated this rule, which in a twist of irony is the very same thing the chief justice accuses M Ravi of doing, which is undermining the very pillars of the legal system in which they operate," he added.

Saying the Singapore government and judiciary were known for their failure to uphold the rule of law, LFL warned that the suspension of Ravi would affect many Malaysians on death row in Singapore's Changi prison in their bid for a fair trial.

"The suspension is truly the final nail in the coffin on the state of justice in Singapore, as it is a resounding warning to all Singaporean lawyers," it added.

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