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Singapore blogger fined for contempt of court

Prominent dissident Alex Au guilty of 'scandalizing' the city-state's judiciary in an online commentary
Singapore blogger fined for contempt of court

Singaporean blogger and gay rights activist Alex Au arrives at the High Court in Singapore on Thursday (AFP Photo/Mohd Fyrol) 

Published: March 05, 2015 07:20 AM GMT
Updated: April 24, 2015 04:37 PM GMT

Singapore's High Court on Thursday fined a prominent dissident blogger Sg$8,000 (US$5,800) for "scandalizing" the city-state's judiciary in an online commentary.

Alex Au, 62, was punished over an October 5, 2013 post insinuating that hearing dates on a constitutional challenge to an old law criminalizing gay sex between men had been rigged.

Au, also a gay-rights activist, apologized to the court and paid the fine. He would have been jailed for one day if he failed or refused to pay the fine.

"I have instructed my attorneys to file an appeal," Au told reporters.

In an earlier ruling, the High Court said Au was "guilty of scandalizing contempt" for publishing the article on his blog site.

Contempt of court carries a possible jail sentence, a fine or both. There is no maximum penalty specified under the law. 

Au is well known in Singapore for his commentaries critical of the long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

He has also called for the repeal of the controversial Section 377A of the penal code, which criminalizes sex between men.  

First introduced by British colonial administrators in 1938, the law is not actively enforced by authorities. 

But the government says it has to remain on the books because most Singaporeans are conservative and do not accept homosexuality.

Singapore's highest court, the Court of Appeal, in October upheld rulings by lower courts that it was up to parliament to repeal the Section 377A.

The government has taken a strong stand against attacks on the integrity of the judiciary, saying they undermine public confidence in the institution.

In 2010, British author Alan Shadrake was given a six-week jail term for publishing a book critical of the administration of the death penalty, which was ruled an insult to the judiciary.

Governed by the PAP since 1959, Singapore prides itself in its stability, low levels of corruption and high standard of living.

But freedom of speech advocates have routinely accused the government of using the judiciary to stifle dissent and sideline political opponents. AFP

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