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Healing the Divide founder Iris Koh granted bail, handed new charge of obstructing police

SINGAPORE —  Iris Koh, the founder of anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide, was granted bail on Friday (Feb 4), after being handed another charge of obstructing a public servant from carrying out her duties.

Iris Koh (pictured), founder of anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide.

Iris Koh (pictured), founder of anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide.

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  • Healing the Divide founder Iris Koh was handed yet another charge of obstructing a police inspector from discharging her duties
  • Koh was granted bail, but with an extra condition that restricts her from contacting certain members of the anti-vaccination group she founded
  • The condition requested by prosecutors became a point of contention with the defence
  • Koh will appear again in court on March 14

SINGAPORE —  Iris Koh, the founder of anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide, was granted bail on Friday (Feb 4), after being handed another charge of obstructing a public servant from carrying out her duties.

As part of her bail conditions, Koh was ordered not to contact “directly or indirectly” certain members of the group.

The condition, specifically requested by the prosecution, became a point of contention with Koh's defence counsel, who noted that its scope may be too broad and that Koh may need to contact some members to build her defence case.

The added charge, Koh's second, was handed to her for obstructing a police inspector by refusing to sign and later tearing up a copy of her recorded police statement.

Court documents showed that this happened on Jan 25 while Koh was held in remand at Police Cantonment Complex.

Koh, 46, had already been denied bail twice.

She was first refused bail last Friday, when her cheating charge was upgraded to one of being a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and again on Monday after her lawyer took to the High Court in a bid for her to be released before the Chinese New Year festivities.

Koh is accused of working with general practitioner Jipson Quah to defraud the Ministry of Health (MOH) between July last year and January this year, by agreeing to dishonestly make false representations to MOH that people were vaccinated with Sinopharm vaccine when they were not.

She was initially charged on Jan 23 with working with the doctor to cheat the ministry over fake vaccination records.

On Friday, the court was told that the prosecutors will no longer need to hold Koh in remand.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Samuel Yap asked that the case be adjourned for six weeks to complete investigations.

CONDITION OF BAIL

Besides requesting bail of S$20,000, DPP Yap asked that Koh be ordered not to contact — directly or indirectly — Quah, their accomplices or any witnesses. These include members of Healing the Divide whom she had referred to Quah.

Upon hearing this, Koh, who appeared via video link, raised her hand and asked to speak.

Defence counsel Clarence Lun raised concerns that the added condition requested by the prosecution was “overly broad”. He added that with the investigations still ongoing, it would not be clear who the involved parties may be.

He drew attention to the use of the words “directly or indirectly”, which he found particularly broad. 

Furthermore, Mr Lun highlighted that Healing the Divide has more than 6,000 members, making the scope of the condition very wide.

He asked the prosecution to provide a specific list of individuals whom Koh was allowed or prohibited from contacting.

DPP Yap clarified that the restriction encompasses members of the group whom Koh had allegedly recommended to Quah, and that the accused “would know better” who these individuals were.

He added that as investigations are still ongoing, the prosecution would not be able to provide an exhaustive list of all individuals she is prohibited from contacting.

At this point, Koh was allowed to address the court. She said that she would need to contact some members of the group for purposes of building her defence case.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong directed the prosecution to provide a list of names, where possible, with the defence having liberty to check with prosecution if certain individuals are part of the witness list, before contacting them.

Koh raised her hand again to speak, but District Judge Ng stated that an accused would normally not address the court directly when a defence counsel has been appointed, and that he had allowed her to do so earlier out of courtesy.

Koh replied that she had not been given the opportunity to speak to her lawyer, who may not have a full picture of the situation.

To this, District Judge Ng advised Koh to quickly make arrangements for her bail so that she would be able to freely speak with her lawyer after her release.

Koh is scheduled to appear again before the court for a hearing on March 14.

Her co-accused, Quah and his assistant Thomas Chua Cheng Soon, were offered bail on Monday.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus vaccination Healing The Divide Iris Koh bail

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