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Prosecutors: S$10-15K fine for Jolovan Wham and jail time for SDP’s John Tan Liang Joo over controversial Facebook post

The Independent logo The Independent 21/3/2019 Anna Maria Romero
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Singapore —The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) have made known what sentences they are seeking for Jolovan Wham and John Tan Liang Joo over their controversial Facebook posts. Prosecutors are seeking a fine of between S$10,000 and S$15,000 for Mr Wham, as well as jail time of at least 15 days for Mr Tan.

Mr Wham was convicted last year for his post on the social media platform that scandalised the jury. Mr Tan’s Facebook post, which commented on Mr Wham’s case, was found to be in contempt of court.

Both Messrs Wham and Tan have been found guilty of scandalising the jury under the new laws determining contempt of court that were implemented only in October 2017. The two men are the first to be found guilty under these new laws.

Sentencing will be made at a later, still to be determined date, according to High Court judge Woo Bih Li, who decided to reserve his judgment for the time being.

The lawyer for the two men, Eugene Thuraisingam, has asked for a lighter sentence for them—namely only seven days jail for Mr Tan, and a fine of between S$4,000 to S$6,000 for Mr Wham.

Mr Thuraisingam asked for a lighter sentence for Mr Tan specifically, because, if he wins an election, under the law he will not be allowed to serve as a Member of Parliament if he has been fined at least S$2,000, or if he has served at least a year in jail.

The new contempt of court laws states that the High Court or Court of Appeal can mete out a jail sentence of as long as three years, or a fine of up to S$100,000 if one is found guilty of contempt of court.

State Counsel Senthilkumaran Sabapathy pointed out that the social media posts of Messrs Wham and Tan impugned the integrity and impartiality of the Singapore judiciary, and he, therefore, asked the High Court to have the men post a public apology as well as take down their posts. He asked for Mr Wham to pay S$8,000 in costs, and Mr Tan to pay S$5,000.

Mr Senthilkumaran also noted that Mr Tan is a repeat offender and that this was an aggravating factor in his sentencing. Mr Tan’s lawyer and the prosecutors agreed that a custodial sentence was in order because of this.

In 2009 he received a 15-day jail sentence for wearing a shirt at the Supreme Court with a kangaroo dressed in the gown of a judge, as well as posting a photo of this, or allowing the said photo to go online.

According to Mr Senthilkumaran, the culpability of the two men was high, since they demonstrated “an utter lack of regard for the authority of courts in general”.

The controversial posts have been on Facebook for nearly 11 months, and they have thus far refused to remove them, he added.

Through Mr Thuraisingam, Mr Tan said that though he would remove his Facebook post, he would not issue an apology.

Mr Wham, on the other hand, has indicated that he will not remove his post until the appeal for his first conviction is done.

In January, he was convicted and received a 16-day jail sentence in the State Courts for another case. Mr Wham chose jail time over paying a fine of S$3,200 for having been convicted of assembly without a permit three years ago and for refusing to sign a statement he had given to the police.

Mr Wham has five other charges related to two assemblies that he is reported to have organized.

Mr Wham’s controversial Facebook post, in this instance, was made on April 27 of last year, wherein he said that Singapore’s courts are not as independent as Malaysia’s when it comes to cases with political implications. He also posted a link to an article entitled “Malaysiakini mounts constitutional challenge against Anti-Fake News Act” along with his comment.

This caused the AGC to file charges of contempt of court against him.

In the following month, Mr Tan put up his own Facebook post wherein he said that what the AGC did after Mr Wham put up his post up merely confirmed what Mr Wham posted was true.

Read related: Activist Jolovan Wham under new police investigation for holding paper outside State Courts without permit Activist Jolovan Wham under new police investigation for holding paper outside State Courts without permit

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