Singapore court fines activist for organizing pro-democracy event

Kyodo News

Posted at Feb 21 2019 11:20 PM

SINGAPORE - A Singapore court on Thursday fined an civil rights activist for organizing a seminar in 2016 in which a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist was invited to speak via Skype.

Social worker Jolovan Wham, 39, was found guilty last month by the State Court on charges of organizing a public assembly without a license and refusing to sign a police statement.

On Thursday, the court slapped him with a total S$3,200 (US$2,364) fine for the two offences and said that if he failed to pay it, he would have to serve 16 days in jail.

Wham chose not to pay the fine, telling Kyodo News, "I don't wish to validate a system where even a harmless Skype call is criminalized. Singapore has to do better in respecting the democratic rights of its citizens."

His lawyer immediately filed an appeal against the conviction to keep him out of jail.

Wham had organized the two-hour public event "Civil Disobedience and Social Movements" on Nov. 26 in an office building to discuss issues relating to civil disobedience and democracy in social change.

He was ordered by the police to apply for a permit under the Public Order Act to hold the event.

The police charge sheet pointedly noted that that one of the speakers at the event, Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, was a non-citizen of Singapore.

Under Singapore's Public Order Act, public assemblies and processions are not allowed without a police permit and such permits are usually not granted, especially when gatherings are for political purposes and would involve foreigners.

The government has designated a Speakers' Corner at a downtown park for public protests, but foreigners are not allowed to take part in socio-political events there.

Wong called Wham's prosecution "an embarrassment and a terrible injustice."

"Jolovan has become a subject of injustice as a result," Wong said in a statement posted on his group Demosisto's social account. "(The judgment) seems to value state ideology over justice."