SINGAPORE - The Online Citizen's (TOC) editor Xu Yuanchen, better known as Terry Xu, and one of its alleged contributors were taken to court on Thursday (Dec 13) over an article published on the socio-political website.
Xu, 36, and Daniel Augustin De Costa, 35, were each charged with one count of criminal defamation.
De Costa is also accused of an offence under the Computer Misuse Act.
He allegedly went to an Internet cafe in Chinatown at 7.24pm on Sept 4 this year and logged into a Yahoo e-mail account belonging to Mr Sim Wee Lee without the latter's consent.
After that, De Costa is said to have sent to TOC an e-mail titled "PAP MP apologises to SDP". Court documents did not reveal details about Mr Sim.
De Costa is also accused of defaming members of the Singapore Cabinet in the e-mail, which stated there was "corruption at the highest echelons".
According to court documents, he allegedly intended for the contents of the e-mail to be published on TOC.
That same day, Xu allegedly defamed members of the Singapore Cabinet by approving on TOC the publication of a letter from one "Willy Sum".
In a statement on Wednesday, police said that the Infocommunications Media Development Authority (IMDA) lodged a report on Oct 5 over an article titled "The Take Away from Seah Kian Ping's (sic) Facebook Post".
The article involved comments made by MP Seah Kian Peng and contained allegations of corruption by top government officials. The police said: "The police, upon receipt of the report from IMDA, consulted the Attorney-General's Chambers and were given sanction to investigate."
The courts also granted the police a warrant to search the homes of Xu and Mr Sum.
While conducting their searches on Nov 20, officers found evidence that the article was not written by Mr Sum. According to the police, it was allegedly written by De Costa.
They added: "The investigations suggest that De Costa had sent the article to The Online Citizen using Willy Sum's e-mail account without (his) consent... Xu, who is the editor of The Online Citizen, published the article on the website without verifying the identity of the author."
Officers later applied for a search warrant against De Costa. When they arrived at his home at around 2.50pm on Nov 20, De Costa was spotted leaving for a flight that was due to take off about an hour later.
De Costa, who is represented by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, was offered bail of $10,000. Xu's bail was set at $5,000 and he is represented by lawyers Remy Choo and Priscilla Chia. The pre-trial conferences for the two Singaporeans will be held on Jan 8 next year.
Offenders convicted of criminal defamation can be jailed for up to two years and fined.
Those convicted of the offence under the Computer Misuse Act for the first time can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000.