SINGAPORE — Fugitive lawyer Charles Yeo, who fled four months ago, appeared via video call at a High Court hearing on Tuesday (November 29).
Yeo, 32, was convicted of contempt of court by outraging the judiciary in two Instagram stories he posted on March 14, in which he expressed grievances over his falling out with fellow attorney Joseph Chen.
During the Zoom hearing, Yeo said he was “currently under the protection of the UK government” and was in a “decent hotel room”.
No mention was made of the outstanding arrest warrant issued for him by a district judge on August 3.
Yeo, the former leader of the Reform Party, faces multiple charges for harassing a police officer and hurting the religious feelings of Christians in his social media posts.
He was granted permission to travel to Vietnam between July 27 and 30 to meet a witness for a case he was working at the time.
Yeo was offered bail, with his mother acting as bail. But on August 1, he failed to appear in court to represent his client.
In a post on his Instagram account, Yeo said he intends to apply for political asylum in the UK.
The full $15,000 bail was forfeited on September 14.
In the current case, the Attorney General obtained permission from the High Court on May 10 to pursue contempt proceedings against Yeo and served on him the relevant papers on May 17.
The Attorney General called for Yeo to be punished for contempt, arguing that the Instagram stories questioned the integrity and impartiality of Singapore’s courts and risked undermining public confidence in Singapore’s administration of justice.
In a story composed of text on a gray background, Yeo said he wasn’t surprised that Mr. Chen – who he dubbed a “PAP agent” – continued to “win in court.”
Deputy senior prosecutor Ng Yiwen said this implied that the courts had ruled cases in Mr Chen’s favor regardless of their legal merit because he was allegedly linked to the People’s Action Party.
In the second story, Yeo said Mr. Chen suffered no punishment despite his “continuous harassment from me.”
He said that Mr. Chen, whom he called a “state agent,” was “shielded” by the judicial system.
Mr Ng said this implied that Mr Chen would be protected by the courts even though he had committed “continuous harassment”.
“Read together, the stories convey the contention that the courts lack integrity and act improperly and biased in the performance of their judicial duties,” Mr Ng said.
Yeo argued that he had no intention of publishing the stories.
For the first story, he said he typed the word “courts” when he was about to type “disciplinary system.”
He said the “system” in the second story referred to his grievances against Mr. Chen’s dismissal by law enforcement and disciplinary authorities.
During the hearing, Judge Valerie Thean repeatedly told him that as an attorney he should know that if he wished these to be considered, the proper procedure was to file an affidavit.
Yeo claimed he decided against it.
Following his conviction, Yeo sought a fine, citing the case of activist Jolovan Wham, who was fined $5,000.
The case was adjourned to January 20 for sentencing.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission is required for duplication.