Tuesday, November 25, 2008

S’porean trio found guilty of wearing T-shirts

S’porean trio found guilty of wearing T-shirts

SINGAPORE: Three men who wore T-shirts depicting a kangaroo dressed in judge’s robes were found to be in contempt of court after a day-long hearing on Monday.

Justice Judith Prakash adjourned the hearing shortly after making her decision so the men could decide if they wanted to apologise and withdraw the insinuations they had made about the courts.

But the trio -- full-time national serviceman Muhammad Shafi’ie Syahmi Sariman, 20; Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) assistant secretary-general John Tan Liang Joo, 47; and activist Isrizal Mohamed Isa, 33 -- refused to do so after the 15-min break.

Muhammad Shafi’ie cited “personal convictions.” Isrizal said he would not apologise as he had no intention of impugning the court and did not think wearing a T-shirt would amount to that.

Tan refused to apologise as he believed his actions were about fair criticism.

Justice Prakash said she could not agree with him and adjourned the hearing till Thursday when she will deliver her verdict on their sentence.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) initiated contempt of court proceedings against the trio for having “scandalised the Singapore Judiciary by publicly wearing identical white T-shirts, imprinted with a palm-sized picture of a kangaroo dressed in a judge’s gown, within and in the vicinity of the New Supreme Court Building.”

They wore the T-shirts between May 26 and May 28 at the Supreme Court.

This was when they attended hearings before Justice Belinda Ang to assess defamation damages that the SDP, its leader Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin had to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

At Monday’s hearing, Deputy Solicitor-General Jeffrey Chan sought stiff jail terms and cited two reasons.

Firstly, the worst insult that someone can level against the judicial system is to call it a kangaroo court, he said.

The term is generally understood to mean a court that is characterised by unauthorised or irregular procedures, or sham and unfair legal proceedings.

Secondly, the men’s refusal to apologise reaffirmed their contempt of court.

Chan urged Justice Prakash to pass a sentence that would denounce such a show of contempt and deter others from acting in the same way.

The men argued separately that they had no intention of publicising their actions, which they said were merely a form of self-expression.

They instead blamed The Straits Times for giving their actions wide publicity through a photograph in its May 27 edition showing them in the T-shirts.

Isrizal also said the image on the T-shirt was not a kangaroo. He said the animal was a wallaby and added that someone asked if it was a chihuahua.

Tan also denied making the remark, “This is a kangaroo court,” as MM Lee walked past him outside Court 4B.

Chan said that while Tan denied making the remark, he did not deny evidence that he pointed to the kangaroo image when MM Lee walked past him.

Tan also did not deny that he committed contempt of court “by posting or acquiescing in the posting” of an article on the SDP website on July 27 about the trio being questioned by police.

That article included a photograph of the trio wearing the T-shirts.

The court was also shown closed-circuit TV footage of Tan distributing the T-shirts, and of the T-shirt-clad trio being photographed by the media at the entrance to the Supreme Court building.

Although they argued that they were taking personal photographs and tried to stop the media, Chan noted that they stood before the media for 26 seconds.

“If they were that keen not to be photographed, one would have expected they would have walked away as soon as pressmen gathered,” he said. -- ANN/ The Straits Times

Posted @ thestar.com.my

Now we know how powerful a T-shirt is...

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