SINGAPORE: Blogger Leong Sze Hian, who is being sued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for defamation over the sharing of an article, has filed a counterclaim, along with his defence.
PM Lee's suit against Mr Leong alleges that the financial adviser shared a "highly defamatory" article claiming that Mr Lee helped former Malaysian counterpart 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 on Nov 7.
The offending material alleged that PM Lee was "complicit in criminal activity" relating to 1MDB and that he "corruptly used his position as Prime Minister to help Mr Najib Razak launder 1MDB's billions", according to PM Lee's lawyers, led by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.
Mr Leong on Wednesday (Dec 26) announced on Facebook that he had hired Lim Tean as his defence lawyer, and shared court documents outlining his defence and counterclaim.
Mr Lim recently set up a new political party called People's Voice.
In the court documents, it was said that Mr Leong removed the offending Facebook post once he was ordered to by the Info-communications Media Development Authority, three days after it was put up.
"He does not assert that what the article said or is alleged to have said was true," said Mr Lim in Mr Leong's defence, adding that all Mr Leong did "was to share without endorsement or comment a link to an article" which had been sent to him on Facebook.
He will argue that the claim against him is "unnecessary to vindicate the Prime Minister's reputation" since the people of Singapore generally "knew that he and the Government were asserting that the article was false in the entire three-day period it was on our client's Facebook page", said Mr Lim in the documents.
Mr Leong has also filed a counterclaim against the prime minister for alleged "abuse of the process of the court" as there is "no proper need to pursue these proceedings".
He pointed out that PM Lee "has not taken legal action against anyone in respect of these articles" except for Mr Leong, claiming that "thousands" of others published or shared the offending articles online.
In his counterclaim, Mr Leong asserted that he had suffered "damage to his reputation" through the court proceedings brought against him by PM Lee and also asked similarly for damages to be assessed should he succeed in his counterclaim.
In response to queries from the media, Mr Lee's press secretary said that "the matter is before the courts and that the prime minister will continue to take legal advice on developments".
A pre-trial conference for Mr Lee's case against Mr Leong is expected to take place on Jan 7.