PTC for case against blogger to be heard on Mar 5, pending apex court application

A second pre-trial conference (PTC) for the contempt of court case against sociopolitical blogger Alex Au Wai Pang has been fixed for Mar 5.

This is to take into account a new application by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) at the Court of Appeal, in which it had sought permission to take action against the 61-year-old for contempt for an Oct 12 article he wrote, which was refused by the High Court last month. The matter will be heard in the week of Feb 24.

This was decided at a closed-door pre-trial conference on Wednesday morning, presided by Senior Assistant Registrar Wendy Yap. It was held in relation to an Oct 5 article published on Mr Au's Yawning Bread blog, for which permission has been granted for AGC to proceed.

Referring to the postponement, Mr Au's lawyer Peter Low told The Straits Times: "This is pending the decision at the Court of Appeal, in case there are any consequential procedural matters that have to be attended to."

He added that if the AGC succeeds at the Court of Appeal, they would likely "apply for both cases to be heard together".

Mr Au is said to have accused the Supreme Court of "deliberately manipulating hearing dates" in the earlier article, titled "377 Wheels Come Off Supreme Court's Best-Laid Plans".

In the second piece dated Oct 12, titled "Church Sacks Employee And Sues Government - On One Ground Right, On Another Ground Wrong", Mr Au is alleged to have accused the judiciary of being incapable of making independent judgments.

In a media statement on Tuesday, the AGC had said: "It is in the public interest that the law in this area is clear, so that there is clarity on what material is, and what material is not, in contempt of court."

It added that court rules "expressly permit" such an application to be made at the Court of Appeal if permission has been refused by the High Court, and that if eventually granted, Mr Au will have "every opportunity" to contest the allegations against him.