After two days of questioning, Yang Kaiheng, co-founder of socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS), admitted in court yesterday that he had lied about the setting up of a Facebook page that was the predecessor to TRS.
Yang, 27, had set up on his own the page lobbying for the removal of MP Tin Pei Ling and made the first post on May 7, 2011, the same day as Singapore's General Election.
But on Wednesday, his first day on the stand, he said he did it with his wife, Ai Takagi, 23.
Yang changed his tune when the prosecutor said he would produce "very personal and very embarrassing" WhatsApp messages to show Yang first met Takagi shortly before Sept 1, 2011, about four months after he set up the Facebook page.
He did not want the messages to be shown in court and said: "I admit I am lying."
Edited excerpt of the exchange between DPP G. Kannan (DPP) and Yang Kaiheng (Y)
DPP: I'm putting it to you that you're lying in your evidence that you knew her during GE2011.
Y: I disagree because I do know her and I do remember setting up the Facebook page with her.
DPP:I was hoping not to have to bring this up, but I have WhatsApp messages from Robin's (Yang's) iPhone... which make it very clear that you met Ms Takagi shortly before Sept 1, 2011. These messages are of a very personal and very embarrassing nature. I do not want to put them in court to prove that you are lying.
Y: Yes, your Honour, I believe him.
DPP: Would you like to look at these messages and then admit that you are lying? Or would you care to simply admit that you lied when you said you set up the Tin Pei Ling page with Ms Takagi... (and)that's how she became interested in Singapore politics.
Choo Zheng Xi (Yang's lawyer): Your Honour, I don't recall my client saying that that is how Ms Takagi became interested in Singapore politics.
DPP:Would you care to see the messages?
Y: No, your Honour. My family has already been...
DPP: No, no, no, no. I'm not saying that by seeing it I would expose it to court. I am not saying that.
Y: No, it's okay, your Honour. I admit that I'm lying.
Yang, a Singaporean, is on trial in the district court for seven counts of sedition. If found guilty, he could be jailed for up to three years and fined up to $5,000 on each charge.
Takagi had earlier pleaded guilty to sedition and was sentenced to 10 months' jail.
Yesterday, during cross-examination, Deputy Public Prosecutor G. Kannan said Yang lied about Takagi's involvement in the anti- Tin Pei Ling Facebook page to give the impression that his wife, an Australian, was interested in Singapore politics. It would make his claim that she was in charge of TRS more believable, the DPP added, as the now-defunct website dealt with only local issues.
DPP Kannan also said Yang tried to cover up the fact that he never stopped running the website, contrary to his testimony that he was involved for only one to two months after the TRS Facebook page went live in June 2012.
Replying, Yang conceded the DPP was right to point out that he alone created the Facebook page, but insisted Takagi "eventually took over" when he lost interest in it.
DPP Kannan pointed out other inconsistencies in Yang's testimony.
Yang told the police last year that he never thought TRS would generate revenue. But in court, he said TRS was born out of a belief it would be a "good business venture".
Yang said what he had meant to say was that the police's question was not relevant to his sedition charges. But DPP Kannan retorted: "Your explanations have been quite absurd."
Last year, Yang also told the police he did not know what "Elance" was. But in court, he gave"detailed information" about how the freelance portal worked, the DPP noted.
The court heard as well that he referred to TRS as "his" in chats with his friends. "I took pride in setting up the website... I didn't see a need to dissociate myself from it back then," he explained.
He also said he did not have access to the TRS control panel, or Web-hosting and advertising accounts, as Takagi was in charge.
And she alone had made a public apology to Singapore Press Holdings for infringing the copyright of 244 articles this year, he added.
Yang said he became a director of Ryuken - the company that received significant advertising revenue earned by TRS - to help Takagi avoid high taxes.
He also told the court he had considered writing for TRS. "But my English standard is not good enough," he said, adding that he had failed his A-level General Paper twice and often made grammatical errors.
The trial continues.