SINGAPORE: The editor of socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC) was charged with criminal defamation on Thursday (Dec 13) for publishing an article that alleged corruption among the Singapore Government's highest officers.
Xu Yuanchen, better known as Terry Xu, was charged alongside the alleged author of the article, 35-year-old Daniel De Costa.
De Costa received a second charge of unauthorised access to computer material.
He had allegedly logged into the email account of a "Willy Sum" and submitted the article to TOC. The article, titled "The Take Away from Seah Kian Ping's Facebook Post" was published under Willy Sum's name.
Willy Sum was really a person called Sim Wee Lee, also known as Willy.
The article, published on Sep 4, alleged that "we have seen multiple policy and foreign screw-ups, tampering of the Constitution, corruption at the highest echelons and apparent lack of respect from foreign powers ever since the demise of founding father Lee Kuan Yew".
Xu was charged with defaming members of Singapore's Cabinet by publishing the letter knowing that it would harm the Cabinet members' reputation.
De Costa was accused of sending the email titled "PAP MP apologises to SDP" to TOC for publication, knowing that it would harm the reputation of the Cabinet. He allegedly did so by logging into Sim Wee Lee's Yahoo email at an Internet cafe in Chinatown.
TOC took down the article after the Infocomm Media Development Authority ordered it to do so, and the police searched the homes of Xu and Mr Sim on Nov 20.
The hearing was attended by friends of the two men, including activists like Jolovan Wham.
Xu is being represented by lawyer Priscilla Chia, while Eugene Thuraisingam is acting for De Costa.
When Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Zhongshan asked for the next hearing to be a pre-trial conference instead of a further mention, Mr Thuraisingam objected, saying: "This should be treated like any other normal case."
District Judge Adam Nakhoda set the next hearing for a pre-trial conference on Jan 8.
If found guilty of criminal defamation, the pair can be jailed for up to two years, fined, or both.
De Costa can be fined up to S$5,000 and jailed a maximum of two years for his computer crime.
Neither made indications on whether they would be pleading guilty or claiming trial.
Xu was offered bail of S$5,000, while De Costa was given S$10,000 bail.