Contempt: Hearing on blogger put off to today

Contempt: Hearing on blogger put off to today
Mr Au is accused of "scandalising the judiciary" in two articles he wrote and posted on his site.

The High Court adjourned for a day the hearing on the Attorney- General's Chambers' (AGC) application for leave to start contempt action against sociopolitical blogger Alex Au Wai Pang, after one of his lawyers showed up at Tuesday's closed-door hearing.

Justice Belinda Ang ordered the delay for parties to make submissions on whether the defence is allowed to sit in at this preliminary stage.

"We will be arguing that we should be allowed to oppose the application at the early stage," lawyer Choo Zheng Xi of Peter Low LLC, who turned up for the hearing on behalf of Mr Au, told The Straits Times. "Alternatively, we should be allowed to hold a watching brief for our client, meaning that we can sit in for the hearing, but we don't make submissions."

The AGC has accused the 61-year-old of "scandalising the judiciary" in two articles he wrote and published on his site, Yawning Bread, last month.

But before it can start action, the AGC must let the court decide if there is enough basis for a case. That was the reason for Tuesday's ex-parte hearing, which did not require the presence of the other party - in this case Mr Au, or his representatives.

The articles in question - "377 Wheels Come Off Supreme Court's Best-Laid Plans" on Oct5, and "Church Sacks Employee And Sues Government - On One Ground Right, On Another Ground Wrong" on Oct 12 - dealt with alleged discrimination against homosexuals.

In the earlier post, Mr Au allegedly accused the Supreme Court of "deliberately manipulating hearing dates". A week later, he alleged the judiciary was incapable of making independent judgments.

Both posts are still on the site, which Mr Au, a gay rights activist and the vice-president of migrant workers' group Transient Workers Count Too, began in 1996.

The AGC said it had already given Mr Au "a chance" in July last year, when he put up a post alleging that well-connected people received special treatment in court. The blogger was let off with a warning after he withdrew the article and apologised.

In January, Mr Au apologised for defaming Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in an article on his blog. Last year, he was asked to remove a defamatory comment made against Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

waltsim@sph.com.sg


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