Australia 'regrets' TRS website editor Ai Takagi's jail term

Australian citizen Ai Takagi was sentenced to 10 months' jail for four charges of sedition for publishing articles that promoted ill will and hostility between Singaporeans and foreigners.
Australian citizen Ai Takagi was sentenced to 10 months' jail for four charges of sedition for publishing articles that promoted ill will and hostility between Singaporeans and foreigners. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Australia has expressed "regret" at a Singapore court's decision to sentence its national, Ai Takagi, editor of The Real Singapore (TRS) website, to 10 months' jail for sedition.

The sentencing of the 23-year- old received widespread media coverage in Australia. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was "aware" of the sentence and was assisting Takagi, who is eight weeks' pregnant. 

"We regret that Ms Takagi was given a custodial sentence, given she is young, pregnant and had issued an apology," a department spokesman told The Straits Times. 

"The Australian High Commission in Singapore will continue to provide her with all appropriate consular assistance."

Takagi had pleaded guilty to four of eight sedition charges relating to the publication of four articles.

One article quoted a Singaporean who allegedly quit his job claiming Filipinos in his company gave preferential treatment to their countrymen. Another falsely claimed a Filipino family caused an altercation between police and participants of a Thaipusam procession last year.

In sentencing her on Wednesday, district judge Salina Ishak said the articles TRS published were intended to "provoke unwarranted hatred against foreigners in Singapore".

Before she was sentenced, Takagi had apologised in open court to the people of Singapore for the harm the published articles caused.

She said she was not fully aware of the level of sensitivity needed when dealing with racial and religious issues in the Republic.

Takagi, a student at the University of Queensland, was arrested during a visit to Singapore last year. 

Her Singaporean husband, Yang Kaiheng, 27, who allegedly helped to run the site, has claimed trial.

Reports of Takagi's sentence featured heavily in the Australian media and were among the most viewed stories on Fairfax Media sites.

Singapore watchers in Australia called the sentence excessive, but said it would not affect long-term relations between the two sides.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Australia 'regrets' TRS website editor's jail term'. Print Edition | Subscribe