AGC gets go-ahead to start contempt of court proceedings against Li Shengwu

AGC gets go-ahead to start contempt of court proceedings against Li Shengwu

SINGAPORE: The High Court has given the Attorney-General’s Chambers the green light to start committal proceedings against Mr Li Shengwu for contempt of court.

Justice Kannan Ramesh made the decision to grant the AGC’s application on Monday (Aug 21) afternoon.

The AGC has 14 days to file an order of committal against Mr Li.

In a statement released after the decision, the AGC said it would next file a substantive application with the High Court for an order of committal against Mr Li.

"Mr Li will be notified of the proceedings," an AGC spokesperson said. "In accordance with the Rules of Court, he will be served with all the necessary documents to allow him to respond. If Mr Li is overseas, the AGC will file an application for service of documents out of Singapore."

Mr Li, who is the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has said he will not return to Singapore to face the contempt proceedings.

The AGC filed an application in the High Court earlier this month, seeking permission to start committal proceedings against Mr Li for contempt of court after he failed to delete a Facebook post he put up on Jul 15, scandalising the court.

The private post included a link to a 2010 editorial published by The New York Times titled “Censored in Singapore”.

“Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report,” Mr Li wrote.

Mr Li’s Facebook post was republished widely in Singapore after it was posted, the AGC said. 

The AGC issued a warning letter to Mr Li on Jul 21, asking him to “purge the contempt” by deleting the post from his Facebook page and other online platforms by Jul 28.

He was also asked to “issue and post prominently” on his Facebook page a written apology and undertaking drafted by the AGC.

 Mr Li did not delete the post by the extended deadline on Aug 4, although he edited it to “clarify (his) meaning”.

“If my private post is read in context, it is evident that I did not attack the Singapore judiciary,” Mr Li wrote.

 “Any criticism I made is of the Singapore government’s litigious nature, and its use of legal rules and actions to stifle the free press.”

“However, to avoid any misunderstanding of my original private post, I have amended the post so as to clarify my meaning,” he added.

As Justice Ramesh deliberated behind closed doors on Monday afternoon, Mr Li published another Facebook post.

He said the AGC had “privately revised its demands to (him)”.

Although Mr Li has amended the post in question, he has yet to “apologise for the Post as originally made, and (has) not published the apology and undertaking we requested,” the AGC said in a letter Mr Li made public on Monday via Facebook.

If Mr Li publishes the apology and undertaking, “we are prepared to discontinue the (proceedings) with no order as to costs,” the AGC said in its letter, which was dated Aug 8.

Along with the AGC’s Aug 8 letter, Mr Li published his letter in reply, dated Aug 18.

 In response to AGC’s “revised demands”, Mr Li said: “AGC still demands I accept that I made ‘false and baseless allegations’ about the lack of independence of the Singapore Judiciary … and that my assertions were wrong, and are in contempt of the Singapore Judiciary … The truth matters: I cannot confess to a crime I did not commit in return for a discontinuance of the legal proceedings against me.”

Mr Li also accused the AGC of relying on “an unverified screenshot” of his private Facebook page.

“By making public comment on an unverified screenshot from an anonymous source, AGC itself sparked widespread publication and republication of my post,” Mr Li said, adding that AGC, in a press release, “made public the words it complains of”.

“AGC sets its sights on policing my private post, yet continues to ignore the publication and republication of the these words by others, including Singapore’s mainstream media,” Mr Li wrote. 

"AGC has done nothing to pursue the real publishers and republishers. If AGC prosecutes me over a private post which I have clarified and amended, AGC should prosecute Singapore’s mainstream media, and require that they take down their unauthorised publication and republication of the contents of my original post.”