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RT Misleads After an Anti-Masker is Booted From Singapore

Commuters wear face masks and practice social distancing while onboard a subway on May 19, 2021. Zen Soo/AP
Commuters wear face masks and practice social distancing while onboard a subway on May 19, 2021. Zen Soo/AP
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney

Author and columnist

“But [Benjamin Glynn’s] refusal to wear [a mask] … saw him treated like a terrorist, as he tells RT.”


On August 29, Russian state broadcaster RT ran a commentary titled, “I was thrown in jail and a mental institution, then deported from Singapore … for not wearing a Covid-19 mask.”

The item includes an interview with Benjamin Glynn, a 40-year-old British citizen who was arrested, convicted and ultimately deported from Singapore last month for a number of offenses stemming from his refusal to follow a mask mandate, which required that everyone aged six and above wear a mask when leaving home, including on public transport.

A couple sits near the Merlion statue, a popular tourist landmark, on Monday, May 31, 2021. (Annabelle Liang/AP)
A couple sits near the Merlion statue, a popular tourist landmark, on Monday, May 31, 2021. (Annabelle Liang/AP)

Glynn first came to the attention of law enforcement following a confrontation with other passengers for his refusal to wear a mask while riding a train on Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit system.

The op-ed begins:

“Don’t like wearing masks? Neither does Benjamin Glynn. But his refusal to wear one, on account of his failure to accept Singapore’s right to make them legally mandatory, saw him treated like a terrorist, as he tells RT.”

However, that statement, and several key omissions, highly distort the events that led to Glynn’s arrest and deportation.

The commentary continues a pattern of coverage on RT that has criticized other nations’ efforts to reverse the COVID-19 pandemic. Meantime, since June, daily confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Russia climbed to a record high.

Singapore, a wealthy city-state in Southeast Asia with a reputation for strict law enforcement, was undergoing a partial lockdown to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic at the time of Glynn’s arrest.

The mask mandate had been instituted in April 2020.

The op-ed said “a passenger videoed [Glynn] not wearing a Covid mask,” but the article makes no mention of witnesses who claimed Glynn initiated the May 7 incident on a train that ultimately led to his arrest.

According to Jerome Tan, an education company director who took the video, it was Glynn who first engaged another passenger on the issue of wearing masks.

“He was talking to an old man, trying to convince him to take off his mask, saying it’ll make him sick,” Tan told the Singapore-based web aggregator and online journalism web portal STOMP.

According to STOMP, another commuter reportedly told Glynn to stop bothering others on the train.

By comparison, RT wrote that Glynn helped the elderly man get on the train because he “had been struggling to breathe in his mask.”

Video evidence of that alleged interaction is not available.

RT also makes no mention of the Glynn’s conspiratorial beliefs, some of which were expressed during the incident on the train, and are still publicly available. In the video shot by Tann, Glynn can be heard saying “he will never wear a mask,” adding he “hates seeing grandads with the mask on not being able to breath.”

He then asks the passengers if they know “what’s behind all this,” and whether they’ve “researched Bill Gates.”

Gates, the Microsoft cofounder, has been described as a “voodoo doll” for myriad conspiracies related to the COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines and nefarious global depopulation plots.

“I’ve researched this quite a lot, and it’s not COVID,” Glynn continues, echoing COVID-19 denialism.

Glynn scoffs when another passenger offers him a mask. This led Tan to approach the station manager, with rail authorities filing a police report, STOMP reported.

According to RT, Glynn said he was “happy to have a chat with [police],” but objected to being taken in so late, as two plain clothes police officers approached him at a condominium before midnight on May 8.

“Things turned ugly, and officers used batons which led to an ambulance being called due to Glynn bleeding from his knees, elbows and shoulders,” RT wrote, citing Glynn as the source.

However, RT omitted police testimony that Glynn became increasingly agitated with officers, telling them that “COVID-19 was all a hoax” and claiming he was trying to help an elderly person on the train, Yahoo News Singapore reports.

Glenn reportedly refused to wait for uniformed officers, prompting officer Chee Xiu Quan to detain him. Chee testified that Glynn pulled away from him and refused to be handcuffed. Chee says Glenn then threatened him.

“He [Glenn] adopted a boxing stance and told me he would '[expletive] drop us both', so in light of that … we affected arrest,” Chee said.

Chee says he drew his extendable baton as Glynn was “actively resisting” arrest. He testified that he struck Glynn in the right thigh after Glynn “took a step and lunged towards both me and (my fellow officer).”

That prompted Glynn to flee. Chee testified that in pursuit, he pushed Glynn to the ground after Glynn slipped, and tripped him when he tried to stand up.

Glynn was then detained and brought to the police station. The officer did not have a body camera turned on during the incident. Claims that Glynn was bleeding or needed medical attention are unsubstantiated.

Glynn was charged with not wearing a mask on the train, causing a public nuisance and threatening a police officer.

He received a fourth charge for not wearing a mask in the vicinity of the court after appearing for a hearing on July 2, where his bail conditions were set.

It was that count which resulted in Glynn being rearrested on July 19 for violating bail terms.

The RT report also omits that Glynn claims to be a “sovereign citizen,” referring to a U.S.-born conspiracy theory which broadly believes people are only bound to their own interpretations of common law, and not actual laws and regulations.

Those beliefs were the basis of his legal defense, in which Glynn called the proceedings a “farce” and that the court had no “lawful jurisdiction” over him.

During trial, Glynn identified Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman as his “legal counsel.” Abdul Rashid, who is neither an advocate or a solicitor, described himself as "ambassador-at-large and advocate of Kingdom Filipina Hacienda.”

Abdul Rashid said he was there to defend his “sovereign compatriot,” adding he didn’t “need a license to practice [law].”

The judge did not allow Abdul Rashid to represent Glynn.

A website for Kingdom Filipina Hacienda describes it as an “autocratic sovereign monarchy.” It contains numerous references to the sovereign citizens movement, “One World Government” conspiracies and biblical prophecy.

As noted in the Singapore-based Straights Times:

“The group claims sovereignty on the basis of divine empowerment and the principles of ‘common law.’ But for all its claims and hundreds of pages of legalese, Kingdom Filipina Hacienda holds the legal recognition of, at best, an unregistered fan club here.”

RT wrote that Glynn asked the judge three times what law required him to wear a mask in public, claiming that “seemingly angered the authorities,” after which he was sent for a psychiatric evaluation.

In fact, when Glynn asked one investigation officer if he had broken the law, the officer replied in court: "Yes, it was currently law during this pandemic, not covering your nose and mouth is breach under Regulation 3A(1) of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020.”

The psychiatric evaluation was prompted by the nature of Glynn’s anti-masker rants in the courtroom, as well as a letter from people who knew Glynn.

“The prosecution received a letter from the accused’s family and friends ... (who) report a marked change in behavior in the accused person that was noticeable especially after the COVID-19 restrictions set in,” Yahoo News Singapore cites Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh as telling the court.

The letter said Glynn’s views had taken an increasingly conspiratorial bent, with “reports of increasing hostility to family members when they try to gently counsel him regarding his view.”

Glynn was remanded into custody from July 19 to August 4, and was then sent to the Institute of Mental Health from August 5 to August 18.

Being found competent to stand trial, Glynn was sentenced to six weeks in jail on August 18. That sentence was backdated, resulting in Glynn being transferred to immigration authorities for deportation. contacted the author of the op-ed, Chris Sweeney, regarding the omissions and discrepancies in his piece. Sweeny declined to comment. RT had not responded to request for comment at the time of publication.

RT has regularly sought to undermine Western vaccines, as well as measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the fact that some Russian regional authorities have introduced vaccine mandates across certain sectors.

Russia has only fully vaccinated 25.5 percent of its population, even though it was the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine in August 2020.