Singapore Gets Blogger to Apologize for Court Criticism

A Singapore blogger deleted a post alleging the city’s courts are biased in favor of the well-connected after the government’s top legal adviser called the charge “scurrilous” and threatened prosecution.

“I apologize for committing that act of contempt,” Au Waipang, 60, said in a posting on his website on July 10 that was drafted by the Attorney-General’s office. “I will not in future put up any post to the same or similar effect.”

The blogger, also known as Alex Au, implied plastic surgeon Woffles Wu was “treated favorably,” by the courts, the Attorney-General’s office said in a statement yesterday. Au’s apology follows the jailing of British author Alan Shadrake, who was convicted of contempt of court in 2010 over his book “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore’s Justice in the Dock.”

Au didn’t respond to two e-mails seeking comment today. He told the Singapore Straits Times that he wasn’t going to stick his neck out for something he couldn’t prove.

Wu, a plastic surgeon, was fined S$1,000 ($800) last month for having an employee take the blame for his two speeding offenses in 2005 and 2006. Au suggested the judiciary was biased because Wu was charged under the Road Traffic Act instead of the criminal code, the Attorney-General’s office said.

In a June 18 blog “Woffles Wu Case Hits a Nerve,” Au wrote that police, prosecutors and judges are “indulgent towards the well-connected,” the Attorney-General’s office said in a July 6 letter to Au.

‘Scurrilous’ Allegations

“The serious allegations, which are scurrilous and false, scandalized the courts,” the Attorney-General’s office said in yesterday’s statement. “His allegations of judicial bias in relation to the Woffles Wu’s case were also based on a number of distortions of the facts of the case.”

The doctor could have been jailed for as long as one year and fined as much as S$5,000 if he was convicted under the criminal code for providing false information to the police. Wu’s charge under the traffic laws carries a maximum fine of S$1,000 and a jail term of as long as six months. Both sections of the traffic act and the criminal code had the same maximum penalties before 2008, the Attorney-General’s office said.

Law Minister

After Wu’s case was discussed in Internet forums and reported in the local media, Law Minister K. Shanmugam addressed the issue in a post on his Facebook page.

The speeding offense is still being investigated and there may be further prosecution when that probe is done, Shanmugam wrote June 17.

Hri Kumar, a lawmaker with the ruling People’s Action Party and a lawyer, said in a June 14 post on his blog that he was “surprised” by Wu’s fine.

“I hope there will be an opportunity for the court to explain its reasons and how other cases where jail terms were imposed were distinguished,” Kumar wrote. “That will promote transparency and confidence in our legal system and deal with allegations of unfair treatment, which have already appeared on the net.”

Shadrake had accused the city’s judiciary of succumbing to political influence and favoring the rich over the poor. He was sentenced to six weeks in jail, fined S$20,000 and ordered to pay S$55,000 in costs to the prosecution. He lost his appeal in May 2011.

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