Singapore’s High Court on Thursday fined a prominent dissident blogger $8,000 for “scandalising” the city-state’s judiciary in an online commentary.
Alex Au, 62, was punished over an October 5, 2013 post insinuating that hearing dates on a constitutional challenge to an old law criminalising gay sex between men had been rigged.
Au, also a gay-rights activist, apologised to the court and paid the fine. He would have been jailed for one day if he failed or refused to pay the fine.
“I have instructed my attorneys to file an appeal,” Au told reporters.
In an earlier ruling, the High Court said Au was “guilty of scandalising contempt” for publishing the article on his blog site.
Contempt of court carries a possible jail sentence, a fine or both. There is no maximum penalty specified under the law.
Au is well-known in Singapore for his commentaries critical of the long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
He has also called for the repeal of the controversial Section 377A of the penal code, which criminalises sex between men.
First introduced by British colonial administrators in 1938, the law is not actively enforced by authorities.
But the government says it has to remain on the books because most Singaporeans are conservative and do not accept homosexuality.
Singapore’s highest court, the Court of Appeal, in October upheld rulings by lower courts that it was up to parliament to repeal the Section 377A.
The government has taken a strong stand against attacks on the integrity of the judiciary, saying they undermine public confidence in the institution.
In 2010, British author Alan Shadrake was given a six-week jail term for publishing a book critical of the administration of the death penalty, which was ruled an insult to the judiciary.