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SINGAPORE: Academic jailed over kangaroo t-shirt, judiciary severely criticised

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singapore_kangaroo_court.jpgJohn Tan, assistant secretary-general of the Singapore Democrats Party, spent Christmas in prison after being charged with contempt of court by Attorney-General Walter Woon.

In addition to spending 15 days in jail, Tan and two others (only known as Isrizal and Shafi'ee) were each ordered to pay a fine of S$5000 in costs. The three have since been released.

The three men were convicted for standing outside the Supreme Court wearing t-shirts displaying a kangaroo in judge's robes, intended to be a comment on the defamation suit brought against SDP leader Chee Soon Juan in May 2008 by the former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his son and current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong.

Justice Belinda Ang had ordered the already-bankrupted SDP leaders to pay S$610,000 in defamation damages to the Lees.
Tan's imprisonment led him to be suspended from his part-time lecturing position at the James Cook University (JCU) in Australia. When he tried to appeal to Dr Dale Anderson, the CEO of JCU, Anderson told him "half of the school is owned by Singapore" and implied that there was nothing he could do.

The severe punishments meted out to critics of the government and judiciary will deter most Singaporeans from speaking out.
For Tan, his recent experienced merely confirmed, in his own words, "that there's no real freedoms, there's no real democracies, there's no real respect for human rights in Singapore and that what my colleagues and I are doing is urgently needed."

The judiciary have recently come under the spotlight with the International Bar Association criticising the system in a report entitled "Prosperity versus Individual Rights", published in July 2008. This has resulted in a spate of reports about the judicial system in Singapore.