Pregnant Australian jailed in Singapore for sedition

A PREGNANT Australian woman has been sentenced to 10 months' jail in Singapore for sedition.

Former University of Queensland student Ai Takagi faced charges of publishing seditious articles in Singapore and reportedly received the stiffest sentence ever imposed for the offence in that country.

Takagi, 23, an Australian of Japanese descent, was in court on four charges of sedition, stemming from a website she ran called The Real Singapore.

According to the Straits Times the articles had the tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Singapore.

Before she was sentenced, Takagi, who is eight weeks pregnant, apologised to the people of Singapore for the harm she had caused by posting content to her website.

Singapore's sedition laws make it an offence to promote hostility between different races or classes in the society which has large ethnic-Chinese, ethnic-Malay and ethnic-Indian populations.

The laws have been used in the past to stifle free speech in the strictly controlled state.

She said she was not fully aware of the level of sensitivity needed when dealing with topics related to racial and religious issues here.

"I now know that the harmony which Singapore enjoys today requires careful and continuous efforts on the part of everyone, citizens and visitors alike, to maintain,'' she said.

Takagi and her Singapore husband Yang Kaiheng, 27, were arrested and the website was shut down last year while the couple were visiting Singapore.

Fairfax Media reported that Yang has pleaded not guilty to similar charges and his trial has been set for March 28.

Prosecutors alleged that while living in Brisbane, where she was a student at the University of Queensland, Takagi wrote articles and chose articles and comments from the internet for the website and a Facebook page without editing contributions.

The mostly crowd-sourced The Real Singapore site, was shut down in May last year. 

One of four charges that Takagi pleaded guilty to related to a fabricated article which said that a Filipino family instigated a fracas at a Hindu festival and another alleging that a Chinese woman made her grandson urinate into a bottle on a train, according to Fairfax.

The Straits Times reported that the court heard that website's aim was to be a platform where Singaporeans could express their thoughts and voice their complaints in their day-to-day lives freely, anonymously, without restraint or censorship.

She and Yang were arrested in February last year after an online police report about TRS website for inciting hatred against the Filipino community in Singapore.

The court had heard that Takagi was motivated by financial gain. Over nearly 1½ years between December 2013 and April last year, shortly before the TRS website and TRS Facebook page were shut down, the site reportedly raked in almost half a million dollars in advertising revenue.

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