SINGAPORE: The High Court on Monday (Feb 3) ordered Mr Li Shengwu to attend court hearings to be cross-examined, and he now has 14 days to answer questions posed to him by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) related to allegations of contempt of court.
In a chamber hearing, Justice Kannan Ramesh dismissed Mr Li's applications to set aside AGC's questions and for discovery of certain documents on the case from the AGC.
Also on Monday, Mr Abraham Vergis and Asiyah Ahmad Arif of Providence Law Asia discharged themselves as counsel for Mr Li.
Mr Li, the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is required to answer the questions posed to him on oath within 14 days, AGC said in a statement on Monday (Feb 3).
These questions are about a Facebook post Mr Li allegedly made in 2017, when he published a private Facebook post with a link to a New York Times editorial titled Censored in Singapore, and a description saying: “Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system”.
AGC asked Mr Li, who is an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University and lives in the United States, how many Facebook friends he had at the time of the post and whether they included members of the media.
The development comes after Mr Li announced in a Facebook post on Jan 22 that he would no longer participate in court proceedings.
Around Sep 29, 2019, Mr Li instructed his lawyers to release copies of his defence affidavit to the media before it was admitted into evidence or referred to in any court hearing, said AGC in its latest statement.
This was a breach of the Supreme Court Practice Directions, said AGC, and the court subsequently struck out portions of the affidavit "which contained scandalous and irrelevant material".
AGC said Mr Li and his lawyers later filed affidavits apologising for the breach, and parties will attend court again as AGC has applied for a declaration that Mr Li and his then-lawyers had abused court process.
The court on Monday also ordered Mr Li to produce documents he had referred to in his defence affidavit.
Mr Li's former lawyers Mr Vergis and Ms Asiyah confirmed with CNA outside the court that they were no longer Mr Li's lawyers, but declined to provide any further comment.
If Mr Li does not show up in court and is later found to be in contempt when hearings proceed without him, a warrant of arrest can be issued, and he can be arrested if he returns to Singapore, lawyers previously told CNA.
He can also be acquitted on the arguments and evidence without personally attending court.