Breaking news: Gopalan Nair sentenced to three months prison

Singapore Democrats

Mr Gopalan Nair has been sentenced to three months imprisonment today in the High Court. Judge Kan Ting Chiu heard submissions from both sides this morning and thereafter found Mr Nair guilty of “insulting” Judge Belinda Ang. He called the blogger back at 3 pm and passed the sentence.

Mr Nair was charged with insulting Judge Belinda Ang in his blog where he wrote about her handling of the defamation hearing between Lee Kuan Yew and the SDP. Mr Nair, a former Singaporean who is now a US citizen, will have to report to the court this Saturday to begin serving his sentence. He will appeal the sentence.

Activists hand over petition on Gopalan Nair to US embassy
Ng E-Jay

Today, five activists handed a petition to the US embassy calling on the embassy to render Mr Gopalan Nair more assistance and work with the local authorities to expedite his request to return to the US to take care of his financial affairs and his law practice which has been adversely affected during his absence.

However, Mr Nair’s request to return to the US must now be put on hold, as will be explained later.

Local activists Seelan Palay, Chong Kai Xiong, Muhd Khalis, Rachel Zeng and Ng E-Jay were met by US embassy staff Mr Learned Dees and Mr Aruna Amirthanayagam near the front gate of the embassy at around 2.30pm. They handed the petition to the officials and took a group photo.

The petition had garnered a total of 89 signatures, including signatures from Malaysian, Burmese and American supporters.

The activists emphasized that the petition was meant as a show of solidarity from members of the public, to which Mr Dees replied, “We will accept it as such.”

Today at around 5pm, Judge Kan Ting Chiu passed a 3 month jail sentence on Mr Gopalan Nair for insulting Judge Belinda Ang in a blog posting. Mr Nair is slated to begin his jail sentence on Saturday, 20 Sept. He will be appealing this sentence.

The case of allegedly insulting Justice Lai Siu Chiu in an email sent in 2006 has been stood down.

Since Mr Nair has been sentenced to jail, the earliest possible date he can return to the US is after his jail sentence. We hope at that time, the US embassy can continue working with local authorities to expedite his return.

Mr Nair was previously been fined $3,000 for using abusive words towards police officers and disorderly behaviour at the junction of Bukit Timah Road and Race Course Road on July 4. He considered appealing against the conviction, but has since dropped his appeal.

The full text of the petition to the US embassy is as follows:

On 31 May 2008, Mr Gopalan Pallichadath Nair, a US citizen, was arrested at Broadway Hotel in Singapore while on vacation and charged with using insulting words towards High Court Judge Belinda Ang in an e-mail criticising her handling of a case. Justice Ang was presiding over a hearing to assess damages in a defamation suit that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew won against the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), its Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin.

Mr Nair was remanded for one week at the Central Police Division to assist in investigations. His passport was also impounded.

On 5 June 2008, Mr Nair was released from custody, but his passport was not returned to him despite appeals from his lawyer. To this day, Mr Nair is unable to return to the US. His legal practice in Fremont California near San Francisco has been left in limbo and his finances have greatly suffered. Mr Nair’s home mortgage in the US is also in jeopardy and the possibility of his having to declare bankruptcy increases the longer he has to remain in Singapore.

Mr Nair vehemently denied sending any emails. His charge was subsequently amended to one of insulting Judge Belinda Ang in his blog post. In the days ahead, further charges were tendered against him: one of sending an insulting email to High Court Judge Lai Siu Chiu in 2006 while she was presiding over a contempt of court case involving SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, and one of disorderly behaviour in public and use of abusive language against police officers.

Mr Nair’s appeals to have his passport returned and for him to be allowed to go back to the US to attend to his personal finances and other matters have been repeatedly denied. This is despite the fact that he has posted a significant bail amount of several thousand dollars and has shown his willingness to cooperate with the authorities. Given that he is likely to have to remain in Singapore for a few more months to attend his various trials, granting Mr Nair’s request for a trip back home in the interim period is not only reasonable, but humane.

On behalf of Mr Nair, we appeal to the US embassy to work with the Singapore authorities to grant his request as soon as possible.

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