Friday, 24 May 2013

Regrettable that Todds won't testify to clear air: Minister

By Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 23 May 2013

FOREIGN Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday said that key questions in the case involving American researcher Shane Todd that his family had raised could have been addressed better if they had chosen to testify in court, instead of walking out on the coroner's inquiry into his death.

These include the conflicting accounts of how a major piece of evidence had been recovered.

They had also claimed they did not know a witness, though he testified that they had met in Singapore just days after their son was found dead last June.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, made these points at a press conference held just hours after the Todd family discharged their lawyers and announced they had decided not to participate further in the inquiry.

The minister said: "They asserted that this hard drive had been processed by a third party after Dr Todd's death and that the hard drive contained information which had been overlooked by the Singapore police.

"(But) the hard drive was something the police had looked at... and in fact was something that the police had handed over (to the family) in the presence of US embassy officials."

Mr Rick Todd and his wife Mary had said they found a hard drive containing sensitive Singapore Institute of Microelectronics (IME) work files in their son's apartment shortly after his death. Those files, they said, link IME to Huawei Technologies, a Chinese firm suspected of espionage by the US government.

Dr Todd's body was discovered hanged against a toilet door in his apartment on June 24 last year. His parents, however, believe he was murdered over his work for IME.

Another point of contention was the testimony by Dr Todd's former IME colleague Luis Montes, who saw Dr Todd alive in the evening, a day before his body was found.

Dr Todd's parents claimed neither they nor their son's girlfriend recognise Dr Montes, even though he testified yesterday that he had met them last year when they arrived in Singapore following their son's death.

Mr Shanmugam also noted the timing of the family's decision to quit the proceedings, which came a day after a medical expert they had engaged retracted part of his findings in court.

"Last week, (the Todd family) said they were... happy with the process and with the judge and took part," Mr Shanmugam said. "It's unfortunate they decided to leave after their key witness gave testimony." The expert, Dr Edward Adelstein, had initially said Dr Todd was garrotted - which means strangled with a cord or wire to death - but retracted this on Tuesday.

The Straits Times understands that the Todd family will leave Singapore this morning.

Mr Shanmugam said the conflicting accounts "could have been better looked at if the family had chosen to come to court to give their testimony".

"We hope they will take part, but if they don't, it is regrettable but the inquiry will proceed per the requirements of the law."

It would have been useful to hear the family's view: Shanmugam

FOREIGN and Law Minister K.Shanmugam raised several points about the decision of Dr Shane Todd's family to walk out of the coroner's inquiry into his death. Here are some of them:

On the family's assertions that had been contradicted by the state's investigations and a witness:

"It would have been useful if the family had continued (participating in the coroner's inquiry)... It would have been useful to hear the family's side as to how they came to a different view of the facts."

On the timing of the family's decision:

"The family said last week they were happy with the way the inquiry was proceeding... and that they had faith in the Singapore court system. It's unfortunate that they decided to leave after their key witness, Dr (Edward) Adelstein, gave testimony. Dr Adelstein, as it transpired, is not a certified forensic pathologist, and he of course has changed his original testimony and confirmed that Dr Todd was not killed by garrotting."

When asked to comment on the credibility of the investigations and the inquiry process:

"All of you can judge for yourself. The police officers went on the stand, they were questioned, they gave their evidence, they gave their testimony, and their processes were subject to total scrutiny."

* AP admits errors in Shane Todd story
TODAY, 3 Jun 2013

The Associated Press (AP) has said it “erroneously reported” details in its article last week on the coroner’s inquiry into the death of American researcher Shane Todd.

The statement came after Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States, Mr Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, wrote to AP, and other media outlets that ran the story, to clarify its “inaccurate, misleading and mischievous” article.

An AP report dated yesterday carried this statement: “In a May 27 story and headlines about a coroner’s inquest into the death of an American scientist, The Associated Press erroneously reported that police admitted violating or flouting official protocol in their investigation by not seeking fingerprints or DNA samples, and by examining the contents of a laptop computer in the dead man’s apartment.

“Rather than admitting to any incorrect behaviour in testimony, a police investigator simply recounted his actions, which he described as permissible under the guidelines. Police deny that any protocol was violated or flouted while looking into the cause of death.”

AP’s report yesterday carried what it called “a corrected version of the story”.

Dr Todd’s parents left Singapore after withdrawing from the inquest, a move Singapore Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said was unfortunate and regrettable as the family’s evidence “would have been particularly useful”.

The Todds have said that their next step will be to urge a US congressional investigation into their son’s death.

“If our government wants to talk about industrial espionage and murder, we’re more than willing to help,” Mr Rick Todd was quoted by AP as saying.

The coroner will deliver a verdict on July 8. AP

AP article on Shane Todd 'not accurate'
Ambassador to US writes to AP, pointing out errors
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 31 May 2013

SINGAPORE'S ambassador to the United States has written to Associated Press, saying its article on the Shane Todd coroner's inquiry was inaccurate, misleading and mischievous.

Mr Ashok Kumar Mirpuri sent the wire agency a letter on Wednesday, pointing out what he said were several inaccuracies in the story, which has also been carried by ABC and Fox News.

In particular, he objected to the headline, which indicated that Singapore police had admitted "flouting protocol" while investigating the death of the 31-year-old American researcher.

The letter, copies of which were forwarded to the Washington Post and American news service CBS, said AP's story distorted testimony given by an officer during the hearing last week.

In the article, the wire agency reported that Sergeant Muhammad Khaldun Sarif decided not to dust for fingerprints or take DNA swabs because he had made a preliminary assessment that pointed to suicide and determined that there were no signs of foul play.

"In explaining his actions under oath, the investigator did not say he had violated any protocols, let alone 'admit' to doing so," said Ambassador Ashok.

He pointed out that Sgt Khaldun had told the court that police protocols were operational guidelines, and were not prescriptive.
The ambassador also said the AP article had repeated assertions made by the Todd family, such as the claim that police missed a hard drive that was later found in the researcher's apartment, without reporting that this was contradicted by witnesses under oath.

Sgt Khaldun produced a receipt carrying the signature of Dr Todd's mother, which showed police had handed the drive to the family.

A document from America's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confirmed this was the same piece of hardware that the Todds had sent for analysis.

Ambassador Ashok said it was "regrettable" that the family walked out of the inquiry before they could take the witness stand and clarify the contradicting accounts. "The Singapore authorities remain fully committed to determining the cause of death," said the letter.

It added that 73 witnesses - ranging from Dr Todd's friends and colleagues to forensics experts - had testified during the inquiry, either through written statements or on the stand.

State counsel and lawyers for his employer, the Singapore Institute of Microelectronics, will make their closing submissions on June 17.

The coroner will deliver a verdict on July 8.
The ambassador also said the AP article had repeated assertions made by the Todd family, such as the claim that police missed a hard drive that was later found in the researcher's apartment, without reporting that this was contradicted by witnesses under oath. Sgt Khaldun produced a receipt carrying the signature of Dr Todd's mother, which showed police had handed the drive to the family.

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