SINGAPORE: Lawyer Ravi Madasamy, better known as M Ravi, was charged in court on Wednesday (Dec 16) with criminal defamation of the Law Minister.
Ravi, 51, is accused of defaming Minister of Law K Shanmugam by citing an allegation that Mr Shanmugam "calls the (shots) and (controls)" as well as "wields influence" over the Chief Justice.
The case was heard only briefly on Wednesday, with Ravi telling the judge that he had already made representations the week before.
It will next go to a pre-trial conference in January. Two deputy public prosecutors attended the charging.
The alleged libel occurred in a post Ravi made on his Facebook page on Nov 6. He claimed that he had heard these allegations from fellow lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam.
Shortly after the post was made, Mr Thuraisingam wrote a letter to Mr Shanmugam to say there is "absolutely no truth whatsoever" to Ravi's allegations, and posted a copy of the letter on his Facebook page.
Mr Thuraisingam, a prominent criminal defence lawyer who has represented several people accused of murder and secured the acquittal of a doctor accused of rape, also called Ravi's Facebook post "false and completely untrue".
According to Mr Thuraisingam, Ravi made similar allegations on his Facebook page in 2017, with Mr Thuraisingam clarifying the matter with Mr Shanmugam the next day. No police action was taken for the 2017 incident, the police said in a statement on Nov 7 this year.
After the media reported a police statement that said authorities were looking into Ravi's alleged defamation, Ravi wrote on his Facebook page that he was suing Mediacorp, The Straits Times Press and the Commissioner of Police, among others.
Ravi is a well-known human rights lawyer from Carson Law Chambers who has represented several convicts on death row. In October, he successfully fought against a death sentence of drug trafficker Gobi Avedian, but gave an interview to The Online Citizen Asia afterwards that prompted a rebuttal by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC).
After Ravi failed to apologise and retract the allegations he purportedly made insinuating that the AGC had acted in bad faith or maliciously, AGC filed a disciplinary complaint to the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) over Ravi's possible professional misconduct. The outcome for the complaint is pending.
In response to CNA's query on its response to Ravi's charging, LawSoc said it will "await the outcome of the criminal prosecution and consider its appropriate course of action in due course".
If convicted of criminal defamation, Ravi could be jailed for up to two years, fined, or both.