Singapore cartoonist apologises over satirical strip

A Singapore cartoonist facing jail time over satirical comic strips depicting the city-state's courts as biased had proceedings against him dropped on Tuesday after he made an official apology.

The Attorney-General's Chambers said it would no longer pursue contempt of court charges against Leslie Chew, 37, after he apologised and removed four offending cartoon strips from his "Demon-cratic Singapore" Facebook page.

"In light of that apology and undertaking, as well as the fact that the offending comic strips have been taken down, the Attorney-General's Chambers has determined that it is not necessary to continue the contempt proceedings," the AGC said in a statement.

Chew had been due in court next Monday. Singapore has no maximum penalty for contempt of court, meaning he could have been jailed and fined if found guilty.

Chew regularly posts satirical cartoons. His subjects are usually local politicians, despite a disclaimer on his page saying it is "a totally fictional comic with entirely fictional characters based on wholly fictional events in a fictional country".

In an apology posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Chew said the comic strips had misrepresented that Singapore's judiciary "administers differential treatment to individuals based on their nationality, social status and political affiliation".

The comic strips also misrepresented that there were specific criminal cases where court rulings were not based on merit, the apology said.

The Singapore government has taken a strong stand against attacks on the judiciary, saying they undermine public confidence in the institution.

Earlier this year, it demanded an apology from several websites over posts that it said cast doubt on the judiciary's integrity in a case involving a Chinese national.

In 2010, a Singapore court jailed British author Alan Shadrake for six weeks for publishing a book critical of the city-state's administration of the death penalty.

Chew, the cartoonist, first came under investigation in April after a complaint was filed about a March 27 cartoon strip that accused the government of being racist against minority Malays.

The AGC did not pursue charges over that particular strip.

Singapore, which prides itself on its stability, low levels of corruption and high standard of living, has been governed by the same party since 1959.

But freedom of speech advocates have routinely accused the government of using the judiciary to stifle dissent and control its political opponents.