Halfway way through the proceedings on Day 9 of the trial of Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan, and Mr Yap Keng Ho, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ms Lee Lit Cheng asked the court to cite Mr Yap for contempt of court.
The matter involved copies of the video evidence and is attendant transcript that the Prosecution had given to the Defendants which Mr Yap had placed on his blogsite.
The DPP complained to Judge Eddy Tham that the Defendants had agreed to use the video evidence only for the preparation of their defence. BY puuting up the transcript and still shots of the recording, the DPP said, Mr Yap had defied a court order.
Mr Yap then defended that he had put up the transcript and pictures because he wanted to see if witnesses could come forward to assist his case. He also asked what the problem was for the evidence to be placed on the Internet as this was a public hearing.
Besides, the Defendant added, he finds the court of public opinion more important that the present Court’s opinion.
Judge Tham then adjourned the trial for 30 minutes while he decided what to do. When he returned he warned Mr Yap that if the Defendant “persisted” in putting up the information on his blogsite, the act “could amount to contempt of court” which he (Judge Tham) will decide whether to take action at the end of the trial.
He said that one reason why evidence posted on the Internet could cause the “public to comment” on the trial and this could lead to sub-judice. He, however, declined to state categorically whether Mr Yap’s actions defied the Court’s order.
Dr Chee Soon Juan took issue with the Judge’s use of the word “persist” as this implied that the Defendants continued to post information on the Internet in defiance of the Court when the Judge has refused to state upfront whether he objected to such republication of the evidence.
This neither-here-nor-there decision by Judge Tham was not helpful to anyone, especially to the Defendants as they prepared their case.
As for the matter of sub-judice, Dr Chee said that it was impossible to stop discussion and commentary on the case in the Internet. He questioned whether reporting on the daily proceedings of the trial (such as on this website) that start public commentary amounted to sub-judice.
He added that given the need for transparency, the evidence should not be kept from the public. Besides, the SDP secretary-general pointed out, that the DPP Lee had not told the Court why she objected to the evidence being publicly displayed.
The Prosecution had resisted giving the Defendants a copy of the video-recording. The DPP only relented when the Defence said that the evidence of the police witnesses could be tainted because one of them had been listening to other officers testifying.
It was clear that the AG Chambers wanted desperately to keep the video-recording from the eyes and ears of the public.
The hearing continues tomorrow at 9:30 am.