"The message this charge sends to people is that if you gather in a place of worship and in the course of worship an incident happens, someone is injured, there is a likelihood you can be charged for murder," defence lawyer GK Ganesan told the Shah Alam Sessions Court Wednesday morning.
"This is the first time in the history of Malaysia people participating in an unlawful assembly have been charged with attempted murder," he said.
"This is not a good thing," he added, as he attempted to have the charges dropped.
The previous accused were at the court when the five others were charged.
And like the 26, the five were also charged with causing damage to public property at the same place and time.
They were also accused of damaging seven vehicles - two Proton Wiras, Proton Waja, Kia Pregio, Perodua Rusa, Toyota Hiace and Rover Defender.
Two of the five were also charged with illegal assembly this morning.
Of the 31 charged to date with attempted murder and causing damage, 12 face an additional charge of illegal assembly. Last week, 15 protesters were charged separately
for taking part in an illegal assembly. Long submissions on bail
Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail personally led the prosecution. Also in the team was the head of prosecution in the AG's Chambers, Yusof Zainal Abiden.
"There is nothing to do with selective persecution," Yusof told the court.
Judge Azimah Omar rejected the defence team's bid to have the charges struck out.
"The arguments raised by defence counsel did not address the charges, hence the court has decided the charges have a basis," she told a packed courtroom.
Lawyers for the accused say they will appeal the decision at the High Court on Thursday.
At least 3,000 people gathered in the temple grounds in the early hours of Nov 25 ahead of the street rally.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd and 69 people were arrested, although 43 were let off with a warning.
The 31 are said to have taken part in an illegal assembly while waiting to join other supporters at a Hindraf rally later that morning in Jalan Ampang.
About 30,000 people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25 to protest against the marginalisation of Indian Malaysians.
Many of those who were dispersed in Batu Caves earlier that morning marched all the way to town to join the rally.
The police, which had denied a permit for the rally, used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd.
For the charge of attempted murder, the accused face a maximum 20 years' jail with a fine. If convicted of causing mischief, they face a jail sentence not more than five years and a fine if convicted.
All have claimed trial to the charges. They were represented by a team of 17 lawyers led by Ganesan and M Manoharan from the Bar Council.
Abdul Gani also objected to bail for the 31 accused persons as the offence for attempted murder and causing mischief is non-bailable, a move which was objected by the defence team.
Following a prolonged session of submissions, Justice Azimah ruled that she would make a decision on bail tomorrow. Family members in court
Family members of the accused, who had been detained in Pudu jail in downtown Kuala Lumpur, turned up bearing food and drinks for their incarcerated relatives.
All the accused were led into the court handcuffed, including a kidney patient, relatives said.
Housewife Uma Devi Kandiah, 50, who participated in the rally, described the charges as harassment.
"The charge is very unfair and discriminatory," she said.
"The Barisan Nasional government is harassing us as the people went there to pray in conjunction with an Indian festival," she added. "Indians are very angry with this development."
Construction worker R Sativel, 23, who was charged with attempted murder, said he was only passing by when he was nabbed by police.
"I was passing by the temple and... I left my bike to see what was happening," he said.
"When I came to collect my bike I was arrested by police. This is a joke. How can they charge me with attempted murder?"
Ministry clamps down on Hindraf coverage K Kabilan
Dec 5, 07
Newspapers have been ‘advised’ by the Internal Security Ministry to play down news reports involving activities of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).
Malaysiakini learnt that editors of dailies were told at a meeting not to highlight stories and photographs relating to the Hindraf rally on Nov 25 and on all other matters involving the coalition.
The 90-minute meeting was chaired by Publications Control and Al-Quran Texts Unit enforcement head Zailani Hashim. He could not be contacted today for confirmation as he is out of town on duty.
However, editors contacted confirmed the gist of the meeting, which took place at the ministry in Putrajaya yesterday afternoon.
"We were basically told not to give prominence to Hindraf,” said an editor, adding that Tamil-language dailies were specifically mentioned for their coverage of the rally.
At the same time, the editors were also told not to publish news that would put the police and the government in a bad light.
“The KDN officer told us that we can report news about Hindraf but we have to give them low coverage,” said another editor who was also at the meeting.
“And we were told not to play up photographs of police being violent at the Nov 25 rally by Hindraf. The message was for us not to blame the police for what happened at the rally.”
He said the ministry appeared worried that the reputation of the police force could be further eroded in the eyes of the public.
On Nov 25, about 30,000 Indian Malaysians brought the busy Jalan Ampang to a standstill for about six hours, as they attempted to march to the British High Commission to submit a petition claiming they have been marginalised since being brought to Malaya as indentured labourers.
The police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd. Earlier that day, a smaller crowd of about 3,000 was similarly dispersed at the Batu Caves temple. The crowd had gathered there in preparation for the rally in Jalan Ampang.
Some protesters have since been charged with illegal assembly, while 26 others were charged yesterday with the attempted murder of a police officer after allegedly assaulting him with bricks. All the newspapers gave prominent coverage to this today.
The government has condemned the rally as illegal and dismissed claims that the community is marginalised.
Editors were also told not to highlight another rally by the polls reform coalition Bersih, planned for Dec 11 at Parliament House, against a proposed constitutional amendment to extend the retirement age of the Election Commission’s office bearers from 65 to 66.
A previous rally by Bersih last month was dispersed by the police using water cannon and tear gas, but some 40,000 people managed to break through the cordons to march to the national palace where a memorandum was submitted to an official.