Singapore drops contempt of court charges against political cartoonist Leslie Chew

One of Leslie Chew's most recently-published comics on his Facebook page, called "Demon-cratic Singapore". (Comic from Demon-cratic Singapore)

[UPDATE on 6 August: AGC drops contempt of court charges against Chew. Details and response added]

Singapore's government on Wednesday dropped its contempt of court charges that it previously served on political cartoonist Leslie Chew.

This comes after Chew removed the four comics that were initially identified to be contemptuous, and issued a public apology for them on his Facebook page called "Demon-cratic Singapore", where he publishes his work.

In a statement sent to Yahoo! Singapore, a state counsel spokesperson said the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) agreed not to pursue the four charges upon request by Chew's lawyers Choo Zheng Xi and M Ravi.

"Through the apology and undertaking, Mr Chew has accepted that the comic strips in question scandalised the Judiciary of Singapore," said the spokesperson. "In light of that... as well as the fact that the offending comic strips have been taken down, the (AGC) has determined that it is not necessary to continue the contempt proceedings."

Responding to the AGC's decision to drop its charges, Chew's lawyer Choo said he was "pleased with the outcome".

"We believe it's the best possible one for all parties involved," he told Yahoo! Singapore. "It has always been Leslie's intention in drawing to make people laugh. He has recognised he has made a mistake and looks forward to continue drawing within the boundaries of the law."

Late last month, the AGC said it was commencing charges of contempt of court for Chew's four comics from his "Demon-cratic Singapore" series, which appeared between July 2011 and June 2012.

In the first comic, published on 20 July 2011, Chew featured four separate cases that appeared to accuse Singapore's judiciary of unfairness — three of which portrayed the court as ruling unfairly in favour of foreigners or against Singaporeans, and the fourth appeared to allude to an instance where current Member of Parliament Tin Pei Ling was believed to have posted on her Facebook page in violation of Cooling Off day regulations.

The second, published on 3 January last year, depicted two cases side by side — one showed a celebrity who was sentenced to probation for "beat(ing) someone up", while the other showed the judge sentencing a national serviceman who went AWOL to five months' jail. Chew also drew the phrase, "The Kangaroo Court of Singapore" on the wall behind where the judge was seated.

In the third, published two days later, Chew depicted what appeared to be the case of opposition politician Chee Soon Juan's application to leave Singapore, which was subsequently denied. He also drew in other panels what looked to be the case of former Romanian diplomat Silviu Ionescu, who fled Singapore before finally being charged and sentenced in Romanian court, as well as another "ang mo" (literally translated as "red hair", but the phrase typically refers to Caucasians) who was charged for an assault on a Singaporean, but was allowed out on $25,000 bail.

In Chew's fourth comic in question, published on 16 June last year, he appeared to question the disparity in sentences meted out to people committing similar crimes.

Earlier this year in April, Chew was arrested by police on charges of sedition over two comics he produced on his Facebook page, entitled "Demon-cratic Singapore". Four months before the arrest, the AGC said it would not commence further proceedings against him if he apologised publicly on his page and removed one of the two cartoons, but Chew refused, saying his work was entirely fictional and not related to any real events or persons.

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