Anti-vaccine group founder gets court nod to leave country

Iris Koh may seek cancer treatment in Malacca if she puts up additional cash bail of $30,000

Iris Koh, the founder of anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide, has been granted permission to leave Singapore during an ongoing court case against her, to seek treatment for thyroid cancer.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong said yesterday she would be allowed to make a trip to Malacca if she paid additional cash bail of $30,000 and provided full details of her travel itinerary to her investigation officer.

She also has to remain contactable while abroad and upon returning, provide supporting documents on her treatment and surrender her passport.

The judge made his decision after Koh's lawyer Wee Pan Lee told the court his client would be shortening her travel dates and limiting the places she intended to visit.

Mr Wee's earlier application was for Koh to visit Malacca and Negeri Sembilan in Malaysia between June 19 and July 22.

This has been changed and Koh will travel from today to July 17 instead, and visit only Malacca.

Mr Wee said Koh's purpose of travel is to seek a second opinion from foreign doctors to treat her thyroid cancer. "Since I informed the court last week that Iris has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, she has seen two other doctors (in Singapore) and both of them advised her on only one type of treatment - the removal of thyroid glands."

He said his client was apprehensive about this treatment as she was trained in music and before her arrest, earned her living as a choir conductor and vocal coach.

"The fear is that this surgery, which is very near her vocal cords, might affect her voice," said Mr Wee, adding that the first step for Koh would be to consult a doctor at Makhota Medical Centre in Malacca to see if an alternative treatment plan would be suitable.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue did not object to Koh travelling to Malacca, but he sought additional cash bail of $40,000 to be imposed. "There are still gaps in the supporting documentation and we have not seen her travel itinerary," he said.

The additional bail comes on top of Koh's current $20,000, which has been paid by her husband Raymond Ng.

The DPP acknowledged that his previous concerns about her lengthy period of travel were somewhat alleviated by the new travel dates.

Mr Wee said in response that additional bail of $40,000 was "punishing" and urged the court to consider $20,000 instead.

Koh faces two charges. One is over conspiring with general practitioner Jipson Quah to make false representations to the Ministry of Health that unvaccinated people were given the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, when they were not.

The other is for ripping up a printed copy of her statement recorded at a police station. She is set to return to court on July 18.

If found guilty of conspiring to make false representations to the Health Ministry, she could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined.

If convicted of voluntarily obstructing a public servant in the discharge of their public functions, she could be jailed for up to three months and fined up to $2,500.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2022, with the headline Anti-vaccine group founder gets court nod to leave country. Subscribe