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Blogger now charged with "sedition"; judge hearing the case is in conflict of interest

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has repeated a call for charges to be dropped against US lawyer, Gopalan Nair, who appeared before a court in Singapore on 12 June 2008 and again on 16 June, after he was accused by judges Belinda Ang Saw Ean and Lai Siew Chiu of "insulting a public servant", for which he faces one year in prison.

"This trial is a farce. Gopalan Nair appeared before one of the plaintiffs herself", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

The 58-year old lawyer was on 4 June accused of "sedition", for posting articles on his blog criticising the Supreme Court handling, by the two judges, of a defamation case that ended in the head of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Chee Soon Juan, and his sister, Siok Chin being sentenced respectively to 12 and 10 days in prison.

The 12 June hearing dropped one charge against the blogger that he had insulted the judge, Lai Siew Chiu, by email by accusing him of corruption.

Nair had said, "What I wrote on my blog is addressed to the whole world. I was accused of sending emails to judge Belinda Ang and another judge, but it's not true (. . .). Police seized my notebook with the password for my email as well as that of my blog".

The case of "insulting" Belinda Ang Saw was heard on 16 June with the judge herself presiding over the hearing.

Nair was arrested in Singapore on 31 May, under Article 13D of the Miscellaneous Offences Act over his criticism of the judge. His blog is still accessible in Singapore. Calling for the charges to be dropped, Reporters Without Borders pointed out that the judges had already had Nair reporting daily to the police.

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