Singapore Blogger Au Faces Contempt of Court Action

Singapore blogger Alex Au Wai Pang faces possible contempt of court action for writing and posting articles that the Attorney General’s Chambers said “scandalize” the country’s judiciary.

An Oct. 5 article insinuates there was a plan to manipulate hearing dates on a challenge to the constitutionality of Singapore’s ban on homosexual sex, according to papers filed by the attorney general’s office in the Singapore High Court.

Au is also in contempt by publishing a second article where he alleged the court made an “erroneous” decision in an employment complaint where a gay man claimed he was unfairly treated, the attorney general’s office said in its court filings. Au intends to contest the contempt accusations, his lawyer Choo Zhengxi said today after a hearing on whether the government’s lawyers can proceed with their case.

The attorney general’s office said yesterday it wasn’t appropriate to comment on the merits of its case before the court decided whether it can proceed.

The office in January warned that public comment on the constitutional challenge, that will be heard by Singapore’s top court, could be in contempt. Au apologized last year and deleted a separate article alleging that Singapore’s courts are biased toward the well-connected after he was threatened with prosecution.

Maximum Penalty

Contempt of court carries a possible penalty of a jail sentence, a fine, or both. There’s no maximum penalty specified under Singapore’s constitution.

Singapore in August said it wouldn’t go ahead with potential contempt of court charges against a local cartoonist, Leslie Chew Peng Ee, after he agreed to take down comic strips that he accepted misrepresented how Singapore judges treated individuals depending on their backgrounds.

In June, the attorney general’s office said a warning letter was sufficient punishment for a film maker in a case over videos where two men alleged they were assaulted by police to get confessions.

British author Alan Shadrake was jailed for six weeks and fined S$20,000 ($16,000) in 2011 for accusing Singapore’s courts in a book of succumbing to political pressure and favoring the rich over the poor. Appeal Judge Andrew Phang had said this was the “worst” case of contempt to come before the Singapore courts. Shadrake refused to apologize.

The case is Attorney-General’s Chambers v Au Wai Pang. OS1098/2013. Singapore High Court.

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