London court dismisses Sarawak Report’s bid for preliminary trial

PETALING JAYA: The High Court in London has dismissed Clare Rewcastle-Brown’s application for a preliminary trial in PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s defamation suit.

In a Facebook post, PAS lawyer Wan Rohimi Wan Daud said the court also ordered the Sarawak Report (SR) editor to pay £28,900 (RM156,000) to the plaintiff, Hadi.

“TGHH (Tok Guru Haji Hadi) has won all five interlocutory applications! Sarawak Report has been ordered to pay costs of £28,900,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hadi’s political secretary Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar welcomed the news, and said the party would issue a statement today.

SR said the trial judge had tentatively fixed a 12-day trial from April next year.

It said the judge felt that there were many interrelated and overlapping issues to be decided, including whether Hadi had grounds to bring the case in the first place.

SR had filed the striking-out application due to the high cost of libel trials in the UK.

To date, it said it had spent £200,000 in pre-trial expenses while Hadi had paid out £305,250.

FMT reported on April 14 that Rewcastle-Brown had complained that Hadi was twisting the meaning of her words for the ulterior political purposes of his party rather than to defend his own reputation.

Hadi, meanwhile, has applied to have a major portion of Rewcastle-Brown’s defence of justification removed. If allowed to remain, the defence’s case would force a great deal of disclosure on the part of PAS.

It is unclear whether Hadi was successful in removing the defence relied on by SR.

Hadi filed the defamation suit at the London High Court following an article by Rewcastle-Brown, which SR published on Aug 6, 2017.

The over 60-paragraph article had alleged that RM90 million was “reckoned” to have entered the accounts of top PAS leaders to woo them into supporting Umno and Barisan Nasional.

In her defence to Hadi’s suit last April, Rewcastle-Brown said the PAS leader was not named or identified in any statement in the article.

She said Hadi’s suit was an infringement of her right and that of the public to freedom of expression, especially in the discussion of political matters.

Rewcastle-Brown added that Hadi had filed the claim not to protect his image but for the illegitimate purpose of protecting the reputation and advancing the political purpose of PAS and Hadi’s political ally, Umno president Najib Razak.

She claimed that the statements in her article were a matter of public interest.

In her counter-claim filed on Oct 11, she said Hadi had conspired with Najib or his agents to exploit the court case to their advantage.

“They want to discredit me and SR over our justified campaign that Najib be removed from office and brought to justice for his alleged ‘corrupt and criminal conduct’,” she said in the court papers sighted by FMT.

Rewcastle-Brown also claimed that Hadi, whether by himself or through his agents, had been party to the publication of a series of articles, viciously or racially abusing, defaming and harassing her on the Third Force and Malaysia Today websites.

Sarawak Report editor wants Hadi’s suit annulled