TRS site co-founder to plead guilty to sedition

Yang's about-turn yesterday will cut short the trial, which had started in March.
Yang's about-turn yesterday will cut short the trial, which had started in March.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Singaporean Yang Kaiheng, who started socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS), did an about-turn yesterday in the middle of his trial for sedition, telling the court that he intends to plead guilty.

The unexpected turn of events will cut short the trial, which had started in March after Yang insisted he was not involved in the daily management of TRS and would fight the charges.

He and his wife Ai Takagi, 23, were charged in April last year with seven counts of sedition for deliberately sowing discord between Singaporeans and foreigners through a series of six articles and a Facebook update that they posted online between Oct 13, 2013, and Feb 4 last year.

The duo were also charged with one count of failing to produce documents to the police.

Takagi, who was the website's editor, had pleaded guilty to four counts of sedition and was sentenced to 10 months in jail. She was 12 weeks pregnant when she began her jail term in April.

Yang, however, had denied the charges and claimed trial.

The first part of his trial, which took seven days, had ended in April. Six days had been set aside for the second part, which was due to begin yesterday.

But the case was adjourned after Yang, 27, dressed in a long-sleeved T-shirt and knee-length bermuda shorts, indicated that he would plead guilty.

Earlier, he had admitted to lying in court after the prosecution pointed out inconsistencies in his testimony. 

Yang had claimed that he had set up a Facebook page with Takagi to criticise MP Tin Pei Ling during the May 2011 General Election. However, this was shown in court to be untrue as the couple met only in September 2011, four months after the election. 

And while he had started the TRS website with Takagi and a friend, Yang had denied knowledge of his friend's involvement. 

Among the contentious articles published on TRS was one which falsely claimed a Filipino family had complained about the noise during a Thaipusam procession last year. The article had blamed this for causing a scuffle to break out between the police and participants of the procession.

The TRS website was shut down in May last year, after its operating licence was suspended by the Media Development Authority.

Yang is expected to plead guilty to six counts of sedition tomorrow.

The maximum punishment under the Sedition Act is a $5,000 fine and three years' jail on each charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'TRS site co-founder to plead guilty to sedition'. Print Edition | Subscribe