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16 April 2008

Report: Singaporean couple charged with sedition over allegedly anti-Muslim publication

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean couple has been charged with sedition after allegedly distributing evangelistic material deemed offensive to Muslims, a newspaper said Wednesday.

Ong Kian Cheong and his wife Dorothy Chan Hien Leng are accused of handing out a publication that cast the Prophet Muhammad in a "negative light," The Straits Times newspaper said, without giving details.

They each face charges under the Sedition Act and the Undesirable Publications Act, it said.

The maximum penalty under the Sedition Act is three years in prison and a 5,000 Singapore dollar (US$3,700; €2,300) fine, while the maximum punishment under the Undesirable Publications Act is 12 months in prison and a fine of S$5,000 (US$3,700; €2,300).

Ong, a telecommunications company employee, and Chan, who works for a bank, were freed on bail of 10,000 Singapore dollars (US$7,400; €4,600) each and their cases will be heard again on April 29, it said.

Singapore, a multiethnic island state, is extremely sensitive about racial and religious issues.

In 2005, three men were found guilty of making racist remarks on their Web sites and two were jailed.

That marked the first time Singaporeans were prosecuted and convicted for racist expression under the Sedition Act — a colonial-era law used by the British to fight a communist insurgency — since the city-state's independence in 1965.

The tiny island's population of 4.4 million is about 77 percent ethnic Chinese — mostly Buddhist, Taoist or Christian — with about 14 percent mostly Muslim ethnic Malays, about 7 percent mostly Hindu ethnic Indians and the rest a mix of races and faiths.

POSTED BY /  http://www.iht.com

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