Singapore court chides church pastor over tweets

Attorney-General's Chambers issues a warning to City Harvest Church pastor, Tan Kim Hock, over two messages posted via his Twitter account which implied Singapore's judiciary system was unjust.

City Harvest pastor Tan Kim Hock's Twitter account is no longer open to public.

Singapore's judiciary caretaker has taken issue with recent tweets by a local church pastor, which implied the State Courts had given special treatment to a media outlet and that the courts were biased.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) dished out a warning to City Harvest Church pastor, Tan Kim Hock, over two messages posted via his then-public Twitter account that it deemed contemptuous of Singapore's judiciary system. In a statement released Tuesday, the AGC said one of the tweets implied the State Courts had awarded local newspaper, The Straits Times, "preferential and privileged access" to information related to the ongoing fraud trial involving City Harvest Church leaders.

Tan had tweeted: "Wow, I'm amazed at the efficiency of ST. They knew it while the court is still going on or do they know earlier."

The AGC said the pastor insinuated the State Courts was "biased and unfair, given that such treatment was not equally accorded to everyone else", when The Straits Times article was published five minutes after the presiding judge had made his ruling about whether the accused City Harvest leaders had a case to answer. This indicated Tan's tweet was "baseless and untrue", it said. 

It further added that Tan, in his second tweet, also implied the country's judiciary system was corrupt. Quoting a verse from the bible, he posted: "I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt!"

Of Tan's action, the AGC said: "The AGC takes the view that the insinuations set out in the two tweets are insinuations which scandalize the judiciary of the Republic of Singapore. These insinuations are scurrilous, false, and made without any objective basis."

It has demanded an published apology from Tan within seven days from June 3, with a stern warning that posting such statements was tantamount to contempt of court and action might be taken against him. 

Tan later removed the two tweets in question and on Tuesday evening changed his Twitter account to "protected", allowing only approved or confirmed followers access to view his tweets.

City Harvest church leaders including founder Kong Hee, are currently on trial over allegations they redirected some S$24 million in church-building funds to advance the career of Kong's wife and singer, Ho Yeow Sun.