Singapore arrests father of youth in vandalism case

August 30, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

SINGAPORE -- Just as the furor over the flogging of American teen-ager Michael Fay had begun to fade, the government here has confronted the Clinton administration with a new controversy: a 51-year-old U.S. businessman has been prevented from leaving this country after being charged with various offenses, from using abusive language to assault.

The businessman, Robert Freehill, an executive with the U.S. aerospace company Walter Kidd, is the father of one of the teen-agers charged along with Mr. Fay last year in the spray painting of cars.

While Mr. Fay pleaded guilty and was flogged four times with a rattan cane in a case that garnered worldwide attention, Stephen Freehill, 17, was freed after paying a fine when the government dropped the more serious vandalism charges against him.

But his father was brought to night court and charged with five offenses, some of which dated to 1992, it was announced during the weekend. He was freed on bail, and his passport was impounded.

He was alleged to have harmed a motorist by kicking a car door and causing another to suffer a sprained neck in a heated argument. Three of the allegations related to using "abusive language." According to the government-controlled Straits Times newspaper, Mr. Freehill could receive a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

"The charges have totally been fabricated," Mr. Freehill's wife, Grace, told the Associated Press in Mandeville, La.

Western diplomats said they were puzzled by the government's action, since the regime had expressed a desire to end the war of words with the United States over the Fay case. One explanation was that the police moved to head off Mr. Freehill leaving Singapore for good, as his son has done.

Singaporeans have recently launched an unprecedented propaganda campaign attacking the United States and American values.

Virtually every day, Singapore's government-controlled media prints an attack on U.S. democracy and American family values or gives sensational coverage of particularly gruesome crimes in the United States.

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