SINGAPORE: Former Reform Party chairman Charles Yeo Yao Hui was handed criminal charges in court on Wednesday (Jan 19) over social media posts that allegedly harassed a police officer and wounded the religious feelings of Christians.
Yeo, 31, received three counts under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) of posting Instagram Stories with threatening, abusive and insulting remarks.
He was also charged with three counts of making or attempting to make remarks to wound the religious feelings of the Christian community.
Yeo was accused of making a post on his Facebook page in November 2020, intending to wound the religious feelings of Christians who view homosexuality as contrary to their religious beliefs.
In his post, he called such Christians "radical and dogmatic" and "fake Christians who use religion for personal gain".
On two occasions in February last year, he allegedly attempted to wound the religious feelings of Christians by making two posts on his public Instagram page @toxicstatenarrativeinsg.
In the posts, Yeo pointed to certain Christian churches and referred to "homophobes with their trash agenda" and "radical Christians" who "are homophobic and distort the message of Christ".
Yeo was also accused of making abusive, insulting and threatening communications against a police officer on his Instagram page in November 2020 and January 2021.
The posts referred to the officer by name and called him, among other things, "nothing but a pathetic coward and collaborator with an authoritarian regime" who "should be tortured before execution".
Yeo was represented by lawyers Ashwin Ganapathy and Azri Imran Tan of IRB Law. Mr Ganapathy told the court that his client intends to dispute the charges for wounding religious feelings.
Two prosecutors turned up for the case, with one of them telling the court that Yeo has Commercial Affairs Department investigations pending against him. Any charges arising from those investigations would likely be dealt with separately, she said.
Yeo stood in the dock dressed in a black top and with his arms folded. His mother was named as his bailor and bail was offered at S$5,000.
The prosecution highlighted that Yeo should be "mindful" of what he further posts on social media, saying he may find himself in more trouble if he posts anything of a similar nature to the alleged posts in his charges.
Mr Ganapathy said he would advise his client accordingly. The judge reminded Yeo not to reoffend or his bail may be revoked. She set a pre-trial conference for Feb 25.
Yeo was arrested last week for his suspected involvement in criminal breach of trust and forgery offences after reports were lodged against Whitefield Law Corporation.
No such charges were tendered against him in court on Wednesday.
If convicted under POHA, Yeo can be jailed for up to a year, fined up to S$5,000, or both per charge.
If found guilty of deliberately wounding the religious feelings of any person, he can be jailed for up to three years, fined, or both per charge.
Yeo said after his arrest for suspected criminal breach of trust that "the charges are entirely trumped up and false", alleging that the police had acted "unprofessionally".
The police refuted his allegations and said that the investigations against Yeo were not politically motivated. The police said they received several reports involving four clients of Whitefield Law Corporation alleging forgery or criminal breach of trust.
Yeo was part of a Reform Party team that contested in Ang Mo Kio GRC in the 2020 General Election against a five-member team led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
After the news broke of Yeo's arrest, the party said it accepted Yeo's offer to step aside as chairman until the matter is resolved. Ms Yasmine Valentina was appointed acting chair of the party.