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Lawyer in detention, charged, facing possible jail term for online comments about judge

(SEAPA/IFEX) - A Singaporean-US lawyer has been charged in a Singapore court for allegedly insulting a judge in emails and his blog, wire reports say.

A Reuters dispatch on 2 June 2008 ( http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSSIN32641420080602 ), said that "Gopalan Nair, who runs a law firm in California and was previously a Singapore citizen, was arrested last Friday and charged for 'threatening, abusing or insulting a public servant' in an email he circulated and posted on his blog, singaporedissident.blogspot.com."

In his blog Nair criticized the Singaporean justice system, Singapore's prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father - Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew - as well as Belinda Ang. Judge Ang had presided over a three-day hearing to determine defamation damages to be paid by opposition leader Chee Soon Juan and his sister Siok Chin to the Lees.

In the course of the hearings, Chee - who has already been bankrupted by the Singapore courts over previous convictions of defamation, also against the Lees - personally cross-examined the elder Lee, accusing him of sacrificing Singaporeans' liberty and human and civil rights in exchange for the city-state's economic might. Judge Ang on numerous occasions ruled that many of Chee's questions and comments were out of line or irrelevant to the proceedings.

In an email sent to the media and Singapore's Attorney General, and subsequently posted on his blog, Nair dismissed the hearing and the entire trial of Chee Soon Juan and Siok Chin as "a farce". He said Ang was biased in favour of the Lees, writing that "Judge Belinda Ang was throughout prostituting herself during the entire proceedings."

He then dared Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore police to arrest him. Lawyer Chia Ti Lik, who is representing Nair, said his client was not sentenced and will be held in custody for seven days pending further investigations. Nair could be jailed for up to a year or face a maximum fine of S$5,000 (approx. US$3,671) if found guilty.

For further information on the defamation action against Chee Soon Juan and Siok Chin, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/74214

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