Thursday, June 19, 2008

No free speech in Singapore; thank goodness judges can't do this in the US

This case reminds me that the founders of the United States bequeathed a tremendous gift to those of us who live in this country. Thanks to Harvard University's Citizen Media Law Project, those who wish to erode our freedoms are not able to attack in secret. Here is CMLP's report on what happens to those who speak out against judges in Singapore:

Singapore v. Nair
Posted June 18th, 2008 by Arthur Bright
Threat type: CriminalDate: 05/31/2008
Subject Area(s): Criminal, Libel
Party Issuing Threat:
Party Receiving Threat:
Gopalan Nair
Type of Threatening Party:
Type of Threatened Party:

Gopalan Nair, a U.S. citizen who blogs from Fremont, California, was arrested in Singapore for publishing insulting comments on his blog, Singapore Dissident, and in an email about two Singaporean judges.

In May 2008, Nair, a former Singapore lawyer, attended a hearing in a defamation suit brought against members of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party by Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew's son. On May 29, Nair wrote in his blog that the trial judge, Belinda Ang, "prostitut[ed] herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders." In another blog entry, Nair also challenged the government to prosecute him, writing, "I am now within your jurisdiction.... What are you going to do about it?"

On May 31, Singaporean police arrested Nair for insulting Ang in an email, a crime under Section 13D (1)(a) of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) Act. Nair was jailed until June 5, when he was released on bail. On June 12, the police filed a second charge against Nair under Section 228 of Singapore's Penal Code, which criminalizes "[i]ntentional insult or interruption to a public servant sitting in any stage of a judicial proceeding," for comments in an email he allegedly sent to Judge Lai Siu Chiu in March 2006. On June 16, the police amended the original charge against Nair to also fall under Section 228 of the Penal Code and to specify that the offense was written in Nair's blog, not in an email.

If convicted, Nair faces a fine of 5,000 Singapore dollars and up to one year in jail. Nair has said he will fight the charges.

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