Trial for PM Lee's defamation suit against Leong Sze Hian adjourned

Trial for PM Lee's defamation suit against Leong Sze Hian adjourned

Leong Sze Hian at Apex court
Leong Sze Hian outside the Supreme Court on Sep 27, 2019. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan) 

SINGAPORE: The trial for a defamation suit filed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against blogger Leong Sze Hian has been adjourned.

The Supreme Court told CNA that Mr Lee's lawyer asked for the adjournment. The trial was originally scheduled to be held between Jul 6 and Jul 10.

"After considering the contents of the letters from both counsels, the court allowed the trial to be vacated," said a court spokesperson. 

The postponement is due to Mr Lee's chief counsel Davinder Singh falling ill, said Mr Lim Tean of Carson Law Chambers, who is representing Mr Leong.

There was a pre-trial conference on Jun 8, said Mr Lim, who is also the founder of political party People's Voice, in a press release on Monday (Jun 15).

"At the pre-trial conference, the court ruled that a physical hearing would take place and the Prime Minister would have to attend court to be cross-examined," he wrote. 

"Unfortunately, three days later, we were informed by letter that Davinder Singh SC, the Prime Minister's leading counsel, had been taken ill and an adjournment was sought."

READ: Blogger Leong Sze Hian to file application to strike out PM Lee's defamation claim

Mr Lim said that they had asked the court for a hearing of the Prime Minister's application for an adjournment to explore other possibilities other than a full adjournment, but the court "immediately granted the Prime Minister's application by letter without hearing oral argument".

"Whilst we wish to express our sympathy for Mr Singh SC and wish him a full recovery, we do not believe his illness is a proper reason why the trial should have been adjourned," said Mr Lim, who added that, in his opinion, another counsel could have stood in for Mr Singh.

The case started in December 2018 when Mr Lee sued Mr Leong after the blogger shared an article alleging that Mr Lee had helped former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak launder money.

The article, titled "Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB's Key Investigation Target - Najib Signed Several Unfair Agreements With Hsien Loong In Exchange for Money Laundering", was carried on Malaysian website The Coverage.

The article was originally published by the States Times Review, but it was the version by The Coverage that Mr Leong shared on Facebook on Nov 7, 2018, without any accompanying caption.

After a series of counterclaims and appeals, the Court of Appeal ruled in September last year that the case will go to trial.

Mr Singh's firm, Davinder Singh Chambers, did not respond to CNA's queries.

Source: CNA/hm(cy)

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