PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has affirmed a Court of Appeal ruling awarding human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen RM100,000 in damages in a defamation suit against a Muslim activist.
A three-member bench chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Azahar Mohamed dismissed the leave to appeal application by Mohamed Hafiz Mohamed Nordin, saying the questions posed did not fulfil the requirements of Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act.
It also awarded Paulsen RM10,000 in costs.
Azahar was joined on the bench by Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Vernon Ong Lam Kiat.
Lawyers Latheefa Koya and Shahid Adli Kamarudin represented Paulsen while Haznal Rezua Merican appeared for Hafiz.
The Court of Appeal ruling on July 4, 2018 said Paulsen had proven all the elements required in his case.
Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat who chaired the three-member bench said Hafiz’s statement was found to be defamatory in nature.
On July 27, 2017, High Court judge Zaki Abdul Wahab also said Paulsen, who was then the executive director of Lawyers for Liberty, had proven his case against Hafiz as the statement referred to him.
However, Zaki held that Paulsen failed to show that the statement uttered by the Pembela activist had lowered his standing in society or caused the public to view him in a negative light.
Paulsen’s defamation suit started when Muslim rights group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) sued him in 2015 for alleging that Isma was an “extremist” group.
Paulsen filed a counterclaim in October the same year against Isma and Hafiz for publishing an article, “Jangan biar Eric Paulsen bebas tanpa perbicaraan” (Do not free Eric Paulsen without trial) on its website, implying that Paulsen was a liar and instigator.
Isma and Paulsen entered into a consent judgment in March 2016, with both parties agreeing to withdraw the main suit and counterclaim.
However, Paulsen’s suit against Hafiz proceeded to trial as the activist did not agree to the terms of the settlement.
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