SINGAPORE (AFP) – Singapore’s High Court on Thursday convicted a prominent dissident blogger of contempt of court for “scandalising” the judiciary in an online commentary, an offence punishable by jail time.
Alex Au, 61, was found guilty of insulting the judiciary in an October 5, 2013 post that insinuated that hearing dates on a constitutional challenge to a law criminalising gay sex between men had been rigged.
“I am satisfied that the Attorney-General has established beyond reasonable doubt that (the article) as a whole poses or would pose a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore,” Justice Belinda Ang said in a written judgement.
“I therefore find the respondent guilty of scandalising contempt in respect of that article,” she said. Ang said sections of the article had suggested that “as the Chief Justice wanted to hear one case, the Supreme Court deliberately delayed the determination of another case so that the outcome of the first case would likely have an influence on the outcome of the second case”.
The judge added that the article had also suggested that two senior justices had acted “in a way that was contrary to the fundamental principles of judicial independence”.
Ang however ruled that a second article flagged by prosecutors, in which the blogger had said “my confidence in the Singapore judiciary is as limp as a flag on a windless day”, did not contravene the law. A sentence is expected to be handed down at a later date. Contempt of court carries a possible jail sentence, a fine or both. There is no maximum penalty specified under the law. Au’s lawyer Peter Low told AFP he was “disappointed” by the ruling.
Au, well-known in Singapore for his commentaries critical of the long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), is also a leading gay-rights activist who has called for the repeal of Section 377A of the penal code, which criminalises sex between men.