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Confusion reigned at the Subordinate Courts today in the on-going prosecution of Mr Gopalan Nair. Blogger Mr Nair was arrested and charged for posting an article criticising Singapore’s judcial system.
No sooner had Mr Nair’s case come up for mention at Court 26 at 9.00 am that it had to be stood down again for two hours. This was because the prosecution could not frame the charge properly.
When it was finally able to make up its mind, it surprised everyone by amending the charge to one of Mr Nair “insulting” High Court Judge Belinda Ang in his blog post. The charge of Mr Nair sending an email to Judge Ang was dropped.
Mr Nair has also been ordered by the Court to report to the Cantonment police station at 9.00 am every day until the case comes up for further mention at the same court on 14 July. This is said to be for the purpose of “investigating into further offences”.
As on previous occasions, there were two US diplomats witnessing the proceedings at the court today.
According to a lawyer present in the courtroom, the authorities are playing a “game of harassment” with Mr Nair to test his endurance and to wear him out.
Prior to today, there were several charges against Mr Nair, including one of sending emails to the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General and Judge Belinda Ang. These charges have been dropped and the prosecution is now sticking to two charges: Sending an insulting email to Judge Lai Siu Chiu on 17 March 2006 and “insulting” Judge Belinda Ang in his blog post.
With the latest amendment, Mr Nair will now be tried in High Court. This is because the charges, classified under Penal Code 228 could only be tried at the lower court if both the prosecution and the defence give their consent.
While the prosecution is keen for the trials to take place at the Subordinate Courts, the defence is insisting that they be heard at the High Court so that the final judgment could find its way into legal publications.
An observer said that from the way the charges are being dropped and new ones preferred, it looks like even the latest charges wouldn’t be the final.
Mr Nair was arrested by the police on 31 May and kept in the police lockup for five days before being produced in court and released on bail. His American passport has been impounded.
Mr Nair, himself a practising counsel in the US, is represented by Mr Chia Ti Lik.