Blogger Alex Au fined $8,000 for contempt of court

Blogger Alex Au, 62, arrives at the High Court in Singapore on March 5, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Blogger Alex Au, 62, arrives at the High Court in Singapore on March 5, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Blogger Alex Au was fined $8,000 on Thursday for contempt of court over an article, in which he implied that the Chief Justice showed partiality towards two constitutional challenges against the law criminalising sex between men.

While he maintained that he did not make such imputations, Mr Au, 62, apologised in the light of Justice Belinda Ang's finding in January that he had scandalised the court.

He told The Straits Times that he is appealing against Justice Ang's decision that he was in contempt, but will pay the fine in the meantime.

The Attorney-General's Chambers, which took Au to task for two articles published in his blog, Yawning Bread, in 2013, had asked for a fine of at least $10,000.

The first, published on Oct 5, referred to two separate constitutional challenges against Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men. One was by Mr Tan Eng Hong in 2010 after he was caught with another man in a toilet. The other, by gay couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, was filed three months after Mr Tan was allowed to proceed in 2012.

In his article, Au wrote that "strange calendaring" allowed the couple's case to be heard first - and reach the Court of Appeal earlier - even though Mr Tan's challenge was launched ahead of it.

Au claimed this was because CJ Sundaresh Menon wanted to be on the three-judge Court of Appeal panel to hear the constitutional challenge against S377A. But he could not do this in the earlier case due to a conflict of interest, Au wrote, as Mr Menon was the attorney-general when Mr Tan's criminal case was before the courts.

Justice Ang found his statements "crossed the legal boundary and constitute scandalising contempt".

However, she cleared him of contempt in the second article, which referred to legal proceedings brought by a man who claimed he was harassed into resigning from department store Robinsons because he is gay. Au wrote in his blog that he did not have high hopes for the case as his confidence in the judiciary was "as limp as a flag on a windless day".