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District judge disagrees with submissions in Karl Liew case

This week: Karl Liew is sentenced to two weeks' imprisonment, and Citizen Lab publishes a report on QuaDream (which reportedly counts Singapore as a client).

I’m sorry that this weekly wrap is a day late! Honestly, I hadn’t even clocked that the wrap was due because I’d completely lost track of time and the days of the week while travelling from Singapore to Melbourne for the Harm Reduction International conference. If you haven't read yesterday's special issue about what I've been learning, catch up here!

I’m making up for this now but I hope you don’t mind if it’s a bit of a brief one because I’ve been travelling and on the go for the past three days and I’m starting to nod off to sleep a bit (and have an early start again tomorrow!)

Karl Liew gets sentenced

As I covered in a previous issue of the newsletter, Karl Liew pleaded guilty to lying to a district judge in relation to the Parti Liyani theft case, and both the prosecution and defence sought a fine of $5,000 as penalty. But District Judge Eugene Teo Weng Kuan decided to sentence Liew to two weeks in prison. He wrote:

“Whilst I register the point that a wrongful conviction did not ultimately result, it does not change the fact that those actions just recounted are all innately serious and ought to be met with the clearest degree of condemnation. The result here must leave no one with any doubt about our tolerance for such brazen fraud in the face of the court, and upon the court.”

He also disagreed with the prosecution and the defence that no actual or potential harm had been caused, and the suggestion that prison was inappropriate for Liew because he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

Also, of particular note in the judge’s grounds of decision:

“I now briefly explain why the submissions made by the parties for a fine could not be accepted. In that regard, I make primary reference to the submissions by the learned DPP because the material parts (which covered two pages) read like a mitigation and were lifted wholesale and repeated for effect by the Defence in its own Mitigation & Submissions on Sentence. Those parts conveniently form the main planks upon which the joint submission for a fine rested and which I need to respond to.”

Parti Liyani has published a statement in response to the sentencing. I encourage you to read it in its entirety, but here’s an excerpt:

“Since the day Liew Mun Leong filed a report to the police to the day the hearing at the State Court concluded, never once Karl showed any seriousness in giving honest evidence. For whatever reason that made him anxious during the trial, if at one point he realized that he had given an incorrect statement to police officers or to the judge, he would have had ample time to retract his statement or amend his testimony. In reality, he remained in his stance by accusing me of theft until the trial concluded.

The act of giving testimony in court is something that needs to be taken seriously, as we take an oath to tell nothing but the truth. Karl Liew, as all other people residing in Singapore who are obligated to obey law, should have treated the entire legal process seriously, considering that he already has several bad records on him. One example is that in 2017 when faced with another lawsuit, he was seen by Justice Audrey Lim as a dishonest and evasive witness, whose evidence was riddled with inconsistencies.

There had been no sign of remorse nor any apology from himself and his family after my acquittal. It took facing legal charges that finally made him admit guilt.

My hope remains high that this case would become the right lesson to us all. As also supported by the Embassy of Indonesia in Singapore in their formal statement, it is hoped that my case shall be the last and shall not be experienced by others in the future.”

Singapore + Spyware

The Citizen Lab has published a report on Israeli spyware vendor QuaDream. There had previously been reporting that the Singapore government is one of the firm’s clients. Among other things, Citizen Lab conducted a scan for QuaDream’s servers, and in some cases were able to trace the servers back to their operators. They suspect that QuaDream’s servers have been operated out of these countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Ghana, Israel, Mexico, Hungary, Romania, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan… and Singapore.

Interestingly, when The Straits Times ran a story about QuaDream, mention that the software had been marketed to the Singapore government disappeared from the story.

Citizen Lab says they’ve been able to identify at least five victims of QuaDream spyware in North America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. They’re not naming the victims, but did say that they include “journalists, political opposition figures, and an NGO worker”. How utterly unsurprising but also depressing.

“Ultimately, this report is a reminder that the industry for mercenary spyware is larger than any one company, and that continued vigilance is required by researchers and potential targets alike. Until the out-of-control proliferation of commercial spyware is successfully curtailed through systemic government regulations, the number of abuse cases is likely to continue to grow, fueled both by companies with recognizable names, as well as others still operating in the shadows.”

Got some more…

🍚 In the latest instalment of Long-standing Problems That Just Won’t Die, food for migrant workers are being left outside dormitories where they might get rained on or invaded by animals and insects (paywalled). The Straits Times reported that this was “a practice that may have started amid Covid-19 restrictions, when there was limited access to migrant workers’ residences”, but this is actually a problem that has been going on for ages. Migrant workers were telling me about this way back in 2014/2015, and migrant worker NGOs probably have heard such complaints even further back.

👮🏼 Victims of sexual crimes will be given priority when filing reports at neighbourhood police centres. They can select the “sexual crime report” option at the kiosk in the police post and this will ping officers.

Posters at the CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Centre.

Thank you for reading this week! As always, please help me spread the word about this newsletter by sharing it widely.