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Opposition party under investigation for organising video conference with former detainees

(SEAPA/IFEX) - 10 October 2011 - The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) is being investigated by police for organizing a public video conference with two people who were detained under the country's detention-without-trial law, Internal Security Act (ISA). The duo, Francis Seow and Tang Fong Har, were among those arrested in the Operation Spectrum claimed to foil a Marxist conspiracy in 1987.

The event was organized on 8 October at the Quality Hotel as a video conference as Seow is in exile in the United States and Tang lives in Hong Kong. Two days later, on 10 October, the Singapore Straits Times quoted the Ministry of Home Affairs as saying that the police were investigating the party, which has "arranged for a fugitive from justice, Mr Francis Seow, and a foreign national, Ms Tang Fong Har, to participate in a discussion on Singapore's domestic politics".

The ministry said in a statement that the organisers had arranged for the speakers to participate from outside Singapore's jurisdiction, "allowing them therefore to be involved in the country's domestic politics at a public assembly in Singapore without being physically present and accountable. The police are investigating whether there has been a breach of the law."

Seow was a former Solicitor-General and was arrested under the ISA in 1987 when he arrived at the detention centre to be the counsel for another detainee, Teo Soh Lung. The government released him 72 days later, but charged and convicted him of tax evasion after he left for the United States to seek medical treatment for his heart condition. According to the SDP website, during the video conference Seow said that while he was in detention, the government tried to accuse him of being "under the influence of the CIA".

Tang, a lawyer, was released after her arrest in June 1987 but was then re-arrested about a year later, after she and fellow detainees issued a joint statement repudiating their earlier confessions. She escaped the re-arrest as she had then left the country.

According to the website The Citizen Online, in the video conference both Seow and Tang called for the repeal of the ISA. More than 100 people attended the conference at the Singapore venue.

Another forum on political issues, organized by filmmaker Martyn See at the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) training room at The Verge shopping mall for 24 September, however, was cancelled at the last minute as the venue owner refused to host a discussion.

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