Healing The Divide's Iris Koh denied bail ahead of Chinese New Year

SINGAPORE — Co-founder of controversial anti-vaxxer group Healing The Divide Iris Koh was denied bail on Monday (31 January) following her lawyer's urgent application to the High Court to have Koh released in time for the Chinese New Year.

Justice Vincent Hoong, who heard the application in the High Court, said that Koh's delay in being released was caused by her own actions, including her attempts to frustrate investigations.

"I agree with the prosecution that it is precisely due to the applicant’s efforts to frustrate and impede the investigations, which have significantly contributed to the need for this further period of remand," he said.

"This is clearly captured in the affidavit by (an investigation officer) which contains an appalling account of the applicant’s belligerence, obstructive behaviour and lack of co-operation with investigations during the initial period of her remand."

Koh, 46, was charged on 23 January with an offence of criminal conspiracy to cheat. She has been remanded ever since.

During her second mention in the State Courts on 28 January, Koh's charge was upgraded to being party to a criminal conspiracy with Dr Jipson Quah, by agreeing with him to make false representations to the Ministry of Health (MOH) that unvaccinated persons had taken the Sinopharm vaccine.

This was allegedly so that the unvaccinated persons could obtain Certificates of Vaccination against COVID-19. The offence, said to have been committed between July 2021 and January 2022, carries a jail term of up to 20 years, a fine or both.

Appeared via Zoom

While originally scheduled to appear in court on Friday, Koh was admitted to Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for hyperthyroidism. Koh had also been admitted into the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) earlier in her remand for suspected psychosis, Koh's lawyer Clarence Lun revealed in court.

On Monday, Lun and three Deputy Public Prosecutors attended court via a Zoom hearing. Koh also appeared via Zoom from what appeared to be her hospital ward. She was seen raising her hand throughout the hearing but was not allowed to speak as she had a lawyer representing her. Her husband Raymond Ng was present in court. He asked through his lawyer from Fervent Chambers to speak to his wife at the end of the hearing but was rejected.

Lun cited doctors' letters that recommended Koh be given further medical attention for her admissions to IMH and SGH. According to Lun, Koh was assessed by doctors to have a fast heartbeat on 26 January and sent to SGH where she was warded for observation. She was then diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and was scheduled for a procedure on Monday.

However, the prosecution rebutted this, as it had received last-minute information that Koh was actually scheduled for discharge on Monday, and will have a medical procedure two to three weeks later.

Citing Koh's health conditions and the upcoming festive period, Lun asked the court to allow Koh to "spend and celebrate festive season with her loved ones and restore her health in the process".

He noted that the prosecution had not explained how Koh's release on bail would impede investigations into her alleged offences, nor could she tamper with evidence if she were released as her mobile phones and laptops had been seized for investigations.

Lun also suggested it was less likely that evidence would be obtained during the festive period.

Lun proposed that his client be placed on bail but be ordered to report to the police during working hours from 4 February onwards, excluding weekends, and that communication between Koh and relevant parties identified during investigations be banned.

Koh contributed to delay in being released: Prosecution

Arguing for the bail application to be dismissed, the prosecution said that Koh had not only been uncooperative, but had contributed to the delay in investigations.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue said that Koh's alleged conspiracy involved at least 20 patients and more investigations were needed to determine how many were involved in total.

The DPP also set out a chronology of events detailing Koh's alleged delays. From the day of her arrest on 21 January, Koh had claimed to have anxiety and panic attacks but refused to be admitted to IMH.

On the second day, Koh managed to give a statement which she signed. When she was first charged on 23 January, Koh again claimed to be suffering from anxiety and requested to be admitted to IMH, which was acceded to.

The next day, Koh requested and was allowed to file a police report against the investigation officer (IO), which took two hours. That same day, she gave another statement but tore it up.

Shouted at IO, issued demands

On day six of her remand, she complained of a fast heartbeat and was admitted to SGH where she was warded for observation. On day seven, she was assessed to be fit for discharge, but Koh claimed to still have a fast heartbeat and refused to be discharged.

Her amended charge was served to her in hospital in the presence of an appropriate adult. When the charge was read to her by the IO, she shouted a vulgarity at the IO and refused to sign or acknowledge her charge. The adult with her was so afraid that she did not sign the charge either.

When the charge was served to her the next day, Koh tore it up and created a ruckus in the hospital until she had to be moved to a quiet room for her Zoom hearing.

Koh has insisted on giving statements under her own terms and conditions, which the police could not accede to, said the DPP.

If Koh had cooperated, the authorities could have made some headway, but even as late as yesterday, she issued demands that the police could not accede to, said DPP Jiang. Koh's two co-accused Jipson Quah and Thomas Chua Cheng Soon had been granted bail as the hearing was underway and arrangements were being made to release them, Jiang added.

Justice Hoong agreed with the prosecution that Koh's promise to cooperate with the authorities from her release "rings hollow". Koh's persistent attempts to impede investigations could be seen by her "repeated complaints of medical ailments and subsequent refusals to be assessed by medical professionals.

"I note that on the occasions where she was examined, the applicant was assessed to be fit to attend court and fit for discharge."

He added, "The applicant has also displayed a blatant disrespect for the investigative and court processes by tearing up her charge and statement and disrupting court proceedings. The consequent delays to investigations are no doubt caused by her active and deliberate attempts to frustrate those very investigations.

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