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Marathoner Soh Rui Yong alleges judge hearing fellow athlete’s libel suit against him is biased, should step aside

SINGAPORE — The defamation case launched by one high-profile marathon runner against another has taken a twist, with the defendant, two-time Southeast Asian (SEA) Games champion Soh Rui Yong, claiming the judge should step aside because of alleged bias.

Marathoner Soh Rui Yong alleges judge hearing fellow athlete’s libel suit against him is biased, should step aside

Marathoner Soh Rui Yong outside the State Courts on Sept 11, 2020.

  • Dr Ashley Liew has sued Soh Rui Yong for defamation after they both competed in the marathon at the SEA Games in 2015
  • Dr Liew won sportsmanship prizes for his actions in the race, but Mr Soh has publicly disputed the actions
  • After eight days of hearings, Mr Soh alleges that District Judge Lee Li Choon has displayed bias towards Dr Liew
  • The ‘crux of the dispute’ is the two runners' pace, but the judge had refused expert advice and eyewitness testimony, he added
  • Dr Liew’s legal team will be filing a reply on the recusal application to be heard in court, but had no further comment

 

SINGAPORE — The defamation case launched by one high-profile marathon runner against another has taken a twist, with the defendant, two-time Southeast Asian (SEA) Games champion Soh Rui Yong, claiming the judge should step aside because of alleged bias.

In an affidavit received by the State Courts on Thursday (Nov 12), Mr Soh alleged that District Judge Lee Li Choon had, during eight days of hearings so far, displayed “a clear slant towards the plaintiff (Dr Ashley Liew)”.

He also alleged that the judge has shown “an aversion to arithmetic and numbers” by declining to hear evidence relating to the runners’ pace and matters of timing.

The matter was heard in a closed-door session in the State Courts on Thursday. Mr Soh’s lawyer, Clarence Lun from Foxwood LLC, told TODAY that his legal team will go ahead with the application for the trial judge’s recusal.

The defamation suit relates to an incident during the marathon at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, when Dr Liew found himself leading a 12-runner race after his rivals missed a U-turn and took the wrong path.

Dr Liew said that he slowed down in order to wait for them to catch up — which led to Dr Liew winning several sportsmanship awards but it is an act that Mr Soh, 29, has publicly disputed several times on social media. Mr Soh won the race, while Dr Liew came in eighth.

This led Dr Liew, 34, who is a doctor of chiropractic at the Family Health Chiropractic Clinic, to sue Mr Soh for defamation, seeking S$120,000 in damages.

When contacted by TODAY on Friday, Dr Liew and his lawyer Mark Teng from That.Legal LLC declined to comment on this development.

“We will be filing our reply, but I think it is not proper for me to make any comment right now,” said Mr Teng.

‘NUMEROUS MANIFESTATIONS OF APPREHENDED BIAS’

Mr Soh’s 150-page affidavit makes various allegations of bias against the judge.

He also said the judge had “descended into the arena, parroted the plaintiff’s counsel’s position that expert evidence should be tendered and refused my questioning of the plaintiff’s pace, and permitted the plaintiff’s counsel to shape and dictate the plaintiff’s evidence”.

During the trial so far, there had been a dispute about the time and distance needed for the chasing pack to catch up with Dr Liew after the missed U-turn, with various numbers related to this debated during the proceedings.

For instance, Dr Liew’s said that the pack of runners had caught up with him after 700m, but Mr Soh disputed this, saying it had taken more than 2.7km to do so.

Mr Soh said the crux of the dispute involves a calculation of Dr Liew's pace and his, and whether or not the pace at which Mr Soh caught up with Dr Liew is believable.

However, the trial judge had then “unjustifiably refused” the assistance of expert advice from running coach Andrew Cheong on the plaintiff’s pace, “thus recanting her earlier position that such evidence was necessary to the trial”, Mr Soh added.

The court had denied Mr Soh’s application to admit his GPS records from the race day, as well as his call for two witnesses who were present near the U-turn that day, said Mr Soh.

The judge had also allowed 53 fresh documentary exhibits to be admitted by the plaintiff in the midst of the trial, added Mr Soh, among other claims.

“In view of the manifest errors of application of the law to the facts, and her aversion to arithmetic and numbers, I verily believe and am advised that the trial judge is not fit to hear proceedings,” read Mr Soh’s affidavit.

“As the numerous manifestations of apprehended bias strike at the core of the trial and the judicial outcome, I humbly pray for the Honourable Court to make the relevant order for a recusal of the trial judge and a re-trial of the action,” he added.

Principal District Judge James Leong will hold a pre-trial conference on Nov 18 to hear parties on the application for the judge to recuse herself.

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SEA Games Soh Rui Yong defamation court

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