SINGAPORE – An Australian woman accused of fanning hatred of foreigners in Singapore on her website said Monday, March 7, she would plead guilty to sedition, an offense punishable by jail.
Ai Takagi, 23, told a district court of her intention at the opening of what was to be a joint trial with her Singaporean husband Yang Kaiheng, 27.
She will return to court on Tuesday, March 8, to enter her plea while her husband’s trial will resume on Friday.
Yang and Takagi each face seven sedition charges for articles published between October 2013 and February 2015 on the socio-political website “The Real Singapore”, which they were forced by regulators to shut down last year.
They were also charged with withholding documents on the website’s advertising revenues from police.
If found guilty, Yang and Takagi could be jailed up to three years and fined up to Sg$5,000 ($3,620), or both, on each sedition charge.
They face one month in jail and up to Sg$1,500 in fines, or both, for withholding information from police.
State prosecutors on Monday said the couple “brazenly played up racism and xenophobia” on the site.
“They even resorted to outright and blatant fabrication in order to attract Internet users to their website – all with the objective of increasing their advertising revenue,” the prosecutors said.
Singapore’s sedition laws make it an offense to promote hostility between different races or classes in the multiracial city-state, which is mainly ethnic Chinese.
About 40% of the labor-starved island’s 5.5 million people are foreigners.
Charge sheets said articles deemed to be seditious derided Chinese nationals and other guest workers in Singapore, while one post on the website “falsely asserted” that a Filipino family instigated a fracas at a Hindu festival in February.
Prosecutors said Takagi and Yang “were wildly successful to profit from the ill-will and hostility that they were peddling” due to the popularity of their website.
Last September Filipino nurse Ello Ed Mundsel Bello, 29, was jailed for 4 months for sedition after insulting Singaporeans online and calling on his countrymen to take over the city-state.
In 2009 a local Christian couple, Ong Kian Cheong and Dorothy Chan, were jailed for 8 weeks each for distributing and possessing anti-Muslim and anti-Catholic publications. – Rappler.com