Witnesses held to testify in Viet trial

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 November, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 November, 1993, 12:00am

SIXTEEN Vietnamese boat people needed to testify in the Sek Kong murder trial were yesterday ordered to be further detained at Whitehead Detention Centre.

Mr Justice Keith in the High Court ruled the needs of Hong Kong's first mass murder trial outweighed the Vietnamese witnesses' desire to return home.

Thirteen people are on trial before Mr Justice Gall in a marathon case which began one year ago today.

All 16 Vietnamese who are needed as witnesses had volunteered to go home before the fire which killed 24 northern Vietnamese people in February last year. They have now been detained for 18 months after they should have been returned.

If they are not detained by a judge, the Crown fears they may be repatriated before they give evidence.

The judge heard from the Crown last week why these witnesses were considered necessary.

On Friday, he ruled that three witnesses were not necessary and refused to make an order to detain them. Two were only needed to identify two victims and the Crown had agreed to release the other earlier. But, for an unknown reason, the third witness was not returned and the Crown, finding she was here, wanted to call her.

The court heard the Vietnamese, who were represented by lawyers acting on a charitable basis for this hearing, had agreed to stay to give evidence but wanted to be moved from Whitehead.

The judge said although he heard their life was physically hard in the camp and mentally stressful, it was a matter for the Secretary for Security where they were detained, and for the police or immigration officers to deal with bail.

The judge will hear further arguments from lawyers for the Vietnamese on the lawfulness of their detention on December 14.