PM Lee Hsien Loong in court on first day of defamation trial against blogger

From left, Lee Hsien Loong, Lim Tean and Leong Sze Hian. Photos: Lee Hsien Loong, Lim Tean, Leong Sze Hian / Facebook
From left, Lee Hsien Loong, Lim Tean and Leong Sze Hian. Photos: Lee Hsien Loong, Lim Tean, Leong Sze Hian / Facebook

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the man he is suing for defamation arrived at the high court this morning for the start of a four-day trial. 

Lee is being represented by five lawyers including Senior Counsel Davinder Singh while blogger Leong Sze Hian is defended by Peoples Voice Party leader Lim Tean, who himself was taken into custody last week during a pretrial conference with his client. Justice Aedit Abdullah is presiding.

The trial begins two years after Lee sued Leong for sharing a “false and baseless” article that alleged the prime minister had helped disgraced former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak launder money looted from Malaysia’s 1MDB state fund.

Leong said that he “merely shared” the article published by Malaysian news site The Coverage and did not add any comment of his own. Leong later removed the article link from his Facebook page following a takedown order by media regulators. He then filed a counterclaim against Lee’s defamation suit, arguing it was an abuse of court. But that counterclaim was dismissed by the High Court and the Court of Appeal, resulting in Leong being fined S$20,000 when he continued to make the argument publicly.

Leong and Lim, his attorney, were preparing for this week’s trial at the Carson Law Chambers office on Friday when three police officers arrived and took Lim away in cuffs. He was later released.

Police denied there was any political motivation to the arrest, insisting it was over his failure to appear for questioning in unrelated criminal matters.

If found guilty, Leong faces up to two years in jail and a fine. 

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