SINGAPORE: Mr Li Shengwu, the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said on Wednesday (Jan 22) that he "will not continue to participate" in a contempt of court case.
The 35-year-old is being sued by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) for allegedly saying in a private Facebook post in 2017 that Singapore has a "pliant court system" and that the government was "very litigious".
In another Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr Li said the prosecution against him "has continued for years".
"During that time, the AGC has submitted thousands of pages of legal documents over one paragraph on social media," Mr Li said.
The AGC recently applied to "strike out" parts of his defence affidavit, said Mr Li, with the result that they will not be considered at the trial.
"Moreover, they demanded that these parts be sealed in the court record, so that the public cannot know what the removed parts contain," he said.
Mr Li added that this was "not an isolated incident, but part of a broader pattern of unusual conduct by the AGC".
"For instance, when arguing jurisdiction in the court of appeals, the AGC argued that a new piece of legislation should be retroactively applied against me," said Mr Li, adding that the court saw it as unfair for the new legislation to apply retrospectively.
"In light of these events, I have decided that I will not continue to participate in the proceedings against me," said Mr Li.
"I will not dignify the AGC’s conduct by my participation."
Mr Li said that he would continue to be active on Facebook and continue regarding his friends-only Facebook posts as private.
He added that he also has removed his cousin and Prime Minister Lee's son, Li Hong Yi, from his Facebook friends list.
In response to media queries about Mr Li's Facebook post, AGC said on Thursday that the timing of his decision was "significant".
It has applied to cross-examine Mr Li and for him to answer questions on oath.
"If Mr Li has nothing to hide, he should make himself available for cross-examination and answer the questions posed to him on oath," said AGC in its response.
It added that Mr Li's decision not to defend his statement "is a clear acknowledgement that his defence has no merits".
"The reality is that Mr Li is now facing some serious questions in the hearing, and it is obvious that he knows that his conduct will not stand up to scrutiny. He has therefore contrived excuses for running away," said AGC.
READ: Contempt of court case: Li Shengwu should turn up for cross-examination if he has nothing to hide, says AGC
After Mr Li made the post in 2017, Senior State Counsel Francis Ng said in a letter that the post was an “egregious and baseless attack” on the Singapore legal system.
He asked Li to apologise and sign a declaration that he had made false allegations and was in contempt of the judiciary.
Mr Li did not concede and said that his private Facebook post was taken "completely out of context" and that any criticism he made was “in good faith”. If found guilty of contempt of court, Li could face fines or jail.
In August 2017, the AGC filed an application in the High Court to initiate committal proceedings against Mr Li for contempt of court after he refused to take down the Facebook post, although he did amend it to “clarify (his) meaning”.
In March 2018, the High Court dismissed his application to set aside the court order granting the AGC to serve papers on him. Last April, the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against the High Court's decision.
Mr Li has said he does not intend to return to Singapore to face the contempt proceedings.
Last September, Mr Li announced that top British lawyer David Pannick had been advising his legal team for the case.
The case came amid a wider public feud among the children of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, which has pitted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against his siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling. Mr Lee Hsien Yang is Mr Li's father.