Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, is suing a blogger for sharing an online article, linking Lee to Malaysia’s 1MBD state fund money-laundering scandal.
The prime minister arrived at court on Tuesday, accusing financial adviser Leong Sze Hian, 66, over a November 2018 Facebook post which linked to an article by Malaysian news site The Coverage.
Lee’s lawyers have described the article as containing “false and baseless” allegations, saying Leong shared the post “maliciously” to spoil their client’s reputation. Leong subsequently deleted the post.
Leong has said he “merely shared” the article without adding comments or changing the content, rejecting allegations of malicious intent.
The trial is expected to run until the end of the week and Lee is set to take the stand and be cross examined.
Lee is no stranger to protecting his reputation, as senior figures in the People’s Action Party, including Lee’s late father and Singapore’s modern day founder Lee Kuan Yew, have previously sued foreign media, political opponents and online commentators for defamation.
Singapore maintains tight controls over local media and enacted a fake news law last year that critics charged could further erode speech freedoms in the city-state. The government says it does not curb legitimate criticism or restrict free speech.
In a twist ahead of this week’s trial, police on Friday arrested Leong’s lawyer for alleged criminal breach of trust.
The lawyer, Lim Tean, who was released ahead of the trial, said the arrest was politically motivated which the police denied.