Blogger Alex Au to appear in court

Blogger Alex Au to appear in court

SINGAPORE - Blogger Alex Au Wai Pang will have to appear in court to respond to allegations that an article he wrote and posted on his blog is in contempt of court.

The Straits Times understands that court documents related to the case have been served on the 61-year-old and a pre-trial conference has been scheduled for Dec 18.

Last week, the High Court gave the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) leave to haul up Mr Au for contempt over an Oct 5 post on his socio-political blog, Yawning Bread.

Entitled "377 Wheels Come Off Supreme Court's Best-Laid Plans", Mr Au in his blog allegedly accused the Supreme Court of deliberately manipulating hearing dates so that Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon could hear an appeal on the constitutionality of Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men.

Some 170 civil activists, academics and artists later signed an online statement, which was sent to the media by social worker Jolovan Wham, to support Mr Au, citing the constitutional right to free expression.

The statement agreed that it is important to uphold public confidence in the judiciary but said this cannot mean that judges should not be subject to scrutiny.

"If Mr Au had erred, his claims should be rebutted in public. This would enable Singaporeans to make up their own minds," the statement said, adding that the AGC's action "reflects an overzealous desire to police public opinion".

Responding to media queries about the show of support, the AGC said yesterday that Mr Au's article contains "allegations of wrongdoing by senior judicial officers". It added: "The constitutional right to free speech and expression is not an absolute right, but is subject to limits which are expressly provided for in the Constitution.

"As important as the right to free speech and expression is, the Constitution recognises that our society as a whole must be safeguarded against statements without basis which injure the reputation of persons or lower confidence in the administration of justice."

The AGC added that the hearing to determine whether Mr Au's article is in contempt of court will be open to the public, and he will have "every opportunity to rebut the charge against him".

Mr Au is represented by lawyers Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi. When contacted, Mr Choo said it was "too premature" to comment on the pre-trial conference at this time.


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