Blogger Alex Au found guilty of court contempt for one of two articles

SINGAPORE - Blogger and gay rights activist Alex Au has been found guilty of court contempt for an online article in which he implied that the Chief Justice was partial in relation to constitutional challenges mounted against Section 377A of the Penal Code.

But the High Court also found that his remarks in a second article did not cross the line as Au had not suggested that the court as a whole was biased against cases involving homosexuality. Justice Belinda Ang in judgment grounds on Thursday held that the prosecution had not proved that Au's second article posed a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice here.

Prosecutors had taken Au to court for two articles published on his blog Yawning Bread, a week apart from each other in 2013.

The first article, published on Oct 5 last year, referred to two separate constitutional challenges against S377A, which criminalises sex between men. The first challenge 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 first. Au claimed that Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon wanted to be on the three-judge Court of Appeal panel to hear the constitutional challenge against S377A.

However, he could not do this in the earlier case owing to a conflict of interest, Au wrote, as Mr Menon was the AG when Mr Tan's criminal case was before the courts.

The relevant statements in the first article "crossed the legal boundary and constitute scandalising contempt", said Justice Ang.

The second article referred to legal proceedings brought by a former employee of department store Robinsons, who claimed he was harassed into resigning because he is gay. Au, 61, wrote on 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".

Senior State Counsel Tai Wei Shyong argued that Au was implying that the judiciary was biased against homosexuality issues.

But Justice Ang found Au's criticism in the second article was not "tantamount to an attack on the Singapore judiciary's competence or an allegation of bias on the part of the Singapore judiciary against homosexuals".

The judge called for further submissions from Au's lawyers Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi as well as Senior State Counsel Tai before deciding on the appropriate penalty for Au.

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