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    Mar 06, 2015

    Blogger Au fined $8,000 for contempt of court

    BLOGGER and gay rights activist Alex Au was fined $8,000 yesterday for scandalising the judiciary.

    He was punished for an article he posted on his Yawning Bread site in 2013. The article had implied partiality on the part of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, in the way two constitutional challenges against the law criminalising sex between men was handled.

    The 62-year-old paid the fine yesterday and also delivered a conditional apology after Justice Belinda Ang asked his lawyer Peter Low if his client was prepared to offer one.

    "At the hearing, my counsel had argued that I did not make such imputations, but in light of Your Honour's findings, I apologise to the court for those imputations," said Au.

    Au later told the media that he is going ahead with an appeal against the decision to hold him in contempt, and added: "I am confident that I would be fully exonerated on appeal."

    The Attorney-General's Chambers, which asked for a fine of at least $10,000 yesterday, launched contempt proceedings against Au for two articles he published in 2013.

    In January, Justice Belinda Ang found that one of the articles constituted "scandalising contempt" - and risked undermining public confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore.

    The article was published on Oct 5. In it, he referred to two separate challenges to strike down Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises gay sex.

    One challenge was launched by Tan Eng Hong in 2010, after he was caught with a man in a toilet. The other, by gay couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, was filed three months after Mr Tan was allowed to proceed in 2012.

    In his article, Au wrote how the couple's case was heard first - and reached the Court of Appeal earlier - even though Mr Tan had launched his challenge.

    Au put this down to "strange calendaring" to allow Chief Justice Menon to sit on the three-judge Court of Appeal panel hearing the constitutional challenge against S377A.

    But he could not do this in the earlier case due to a conflict of interest, Au wrote, as Mr Menon was the attorney-general at the time Mr Tan's criminal case was before the courts.

    Justice Ang cleared Au of contempt in the second article, published on Oct 12, which referred to legal proceedings brought by a man who claimed he was harassed into resigning from department store Robinsons because he is gay.