U.S. News

U.S. lawyer faces more charges of Singapore judge insults

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A U.S lawyer already facing a charge of insulting a Singapore judge was indicted on Thursday in a Singapore court for disparaging another member of the bench in an email he sent two years ago.

The second charge against Gopalan Nair, a former Singaporean now based in California, said he insulted Judge Lai Siu Chiu in an email sent to her secretary around March 2006 and accusing her of bias.

It is not clear what case the judge was presiding on.

The maximum sentence for the second indictment is a fine of S$5,000 and a jail term of one year.

“The reason why (Lai) and her fellow judges punish and silence PAP critics is because judges are well paid and have comfortable lives,” court documents quoted Nair’s email as saying.

The PAP, or People’s Action Party, is Singapore’s ruling party headed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. It has dominated Singapore politics since independence.

“It is my right and it is my duty under the constitution of the Republic of Singapore and Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be able to speak free as a free man and to state what I have seen and heard. This benefits Singaporeans and the world at large,” Nair, on bail, told reporters ahead of a hearing next Monday.

Nair was arrested after returning to Singapore last month to attend a three-day hearing presided over by Judge Belinda Ang to determine defamation damages to be paid by a Singapore opposition party and its leader to Prime Minister Lee and his father Lee Kuan Yew, who was Singapore’s prime minister for decades.

Nair, a critic of Singapore’s ruling party, stood for election in 1991 as a member of the opposition Workers’ Party. He was later found guilty of contempt of court stemming from an election rally speech and ordered to pay S$21,000 in legal costs and fines.

The U.S. embassy said it was monitoring the case.

“We are consistently advocating for the freedom of expression, including the Internet,” an embassy official said.

Editing by Neil Chatterjee