TOC editor-in-chief Terry Xu has filed a judicial review application against the Singapore Attorney-General, Lucien Wong for seeking a contempt of court committal order over the former’s republication of a blog post.

In a statement from his law firm Carson Law Chambers on Wednesday (8 Sep), Mr Xu’s counsel Lim Tean said that the Attorney-General’s application “is both unlawful and irrational”, as such an application was only made against Mr Xu and not against the original author of the blog post.

This is despite the author — formerly a Singapore permanent resident and is now living in Australia — having “openly declared that she is willing to be questioned” by the Singapore authorities on the post.

“However, to date, neither the police nor the Attorney-General’s Chambers have contacted (her) to question her or investigate her on her Open Letter. The Open Letter remains on her blog. She had also published the Open Letter on her Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn,” the statement read.

“The authorities did not take any steps to question (her) on her intentions and what she meant to convey when she penned the Open Letter, and yet they saw it fit to prosecute Terry for contempt because he republished it.”

In his judicial review application, Mr Xu is subsequently seeking permission from the court to apply for an order that would prevent Mr Wong, as Attorney-General, from proceeding with his order of committal application.

Mr Xu is also seeking declarations from the court that the Attorney-General’s application is unconstitutional and in breach of Articles 12(1) and 35(8) of the Singapore Constitution.

Article 12(1) provides for equal protections for all before the law, while Article 35(8) constitutes the prosecutorial discretion of the Attorney-General.

“We shall provide further updates in due course,” the statement added.

TOC understands that the author has not been asked by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to remove the original blogpost.

Mr Lim had earlier asked the AGC to release the statement they filed in court in support of their application pursuant to Order 52, Rule 2(2) of the Rules Of Court so that the public can be appraised of the facts of the case.

There is another ongoing police investigation on contempt of court against Mr Xu that was commenced in March 2020 over reports made on Mr Mohan Rajangam, a Singaporean man who was transferred to the Royal Malaysian Police’s custody in Penang by the Singapore Police Force and was left to fend for himself for four months before returning to Singapore on his own.

Also read: Lawyers For Liberty: Contempt of court threat a “disproportionate response” to Malaysian news portal’s article on Changi Prison death row inmates’ landmark lawsuit

 

Mr Lim also represented Mr Xu in the civil defamation suit filed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over an article purportedly containing “false and baseless” allegations regarding the PM’s role in the 38 Oxley Road property dispute.

The court on 1 Sep awarded S$210,000 in damages to PM Lee in his civil libel lawsuit against Mr Xu.

The S$210,000 comprises S$160,000 in general damages and S$50,000 in aggravated damages.

The writer of the article was separately sued by PM Lee. Mr Xu was not named as a defendant in the separate lawsuit.

For the suit against the writer of the article titled “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members“, Justice Audrey Lim awarded S$160,000 in general damages to PM Lee.

However, Justice Lim ruled that PM Lee should not be doubly compensated as the defamation pertained to the same article.

Thus, the judge said both Mr Xu and the writer of the article should be held “jointly and severally liable” for damages amounting to S$160,000.

This means that PM Lee can claim only S$160,000 from both.

Mr Xu is also required to pay S$50,000 in aggravated damages to PM Lee.

PM Lee’s lawyers had previously stated in their closing submissions for the defamation suit against Mr Xu that damages awarded in previous defamation cases involving government ministers in Singapore fell within the range of S$100,000 to S$400,000.

Legal costs and fees pertaining to the suit will be determined at a later date.

Mr Xu has raised S$156,573.20 in donations through his crowdfunding campaign as of 11.59 pm, Wednesday (8 Sep).

The amount, contributed by 1,609 people, is 74.56 per cent of the S$210,000 awarded to the Prime Minister by the High Court.

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