Marathoner Soh to pay ex-teammate Liew $180k for defamation
The District Court has ordered Singapore's top marathoner Soh Rui Yong to pay former teammate Ashley Liew $180,000 for defamation.
The sum includes $120,000 in general damages and $60,000 in aggravated damages.
In her verdict delivered yesterday, District Judge Lee Li Choon also granted Liew's request for an injunction against Soh to prevent him repeating the offending comments, to compel him to remove them and publish an apology on his Facebook and Instagram pages, and retract the statements he made.
The long-running legal dispute between the former national teammates began in June 2019, when Liew filed proceedings against Soh over five statements he made about an act of fair play by Liew which Soh disputed. The first statement was in October 2018.
The statements appeared in the form of two blog posts, two Facebook posts, and one Facebook comment.
In them, Soh had disputed Liew's account of the latter's act of fair play during the 2015 SEA Games marathon.
Liew, a chiropractor, said that after the pack of runners had missed a U-turn and took the wrong path, he had slowed down to allow the others to catch up. He went on to finish eighth, while Soh won the race.
Liew later received two awards for his act of sportsmanship from the Singapore National Olympic Council and the International Fair Play Committee - which awarded him the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy - as well as praise from Cabinet ministers.
District Judge Lee said that she found Soh's statements disputing Liew's account defamatory and "clearly an attack on Liew's integrity and credibility" and would be taken to mean that "he is a person who lacks integrity".
She said Soh's defence of justification meant that the "sting of the charge has to be proven" - that is, that Liew did not slow down and the act of fair play did not occur.
This was not achieved, she added, saying that Soh's evidence lacked credibility and was not inconsistent with Liew's account, because his "witnesses were either not observing Liew or could not have observed Liew's slowing down or act of fair play due to where they were standing".
In a statement after the verdict, Liew said: "My family is so grateful for the vindication received through today's verdict.
"It has been a long and arduous road since October 2018.
"Moving forward, it is my prayer that we can all heal, for the betterment of sport in Singapore, especially for the values that athletics stand for."
However, Soh struck a defiant tone, posting on Facebook yesterday: "This marathon is not over. I will be launching an appeal in the High Court of Singapore. Will clear my name, whatever it takes."
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