Khamis, 29 Mei 2014

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Singapore PM launches defamation suit against blogger

Posted: 29 May 2014 03:09 AM PDT

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (pic) on Thursday filed a defamation suit against a blogger who accused him of misusing public funds, setting the stage for the first court case of its kind in Singapore.

Lee's lawyer Davinder Singh told the High Court that a May 15 post by Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, a 33-year-old government health worker, contained statements that alleged "criminal misappropriation" by the premier.

Lee had earlier rejected an apology and compensation offer from Ngerng, who writes a blog called "The Heart Truths" which had more than 3,300 followers soon after the lawsuit was filed.

In general, civil suits are launched in the Singapore High Court when the value of claims is above Sg$250,000 ($199,000), according to guidelines posted on a government website. The court will have the final say on the amount to be awarded.

Ngerng, who has publicly vowed not to be silenced, is the first blogger taken to court for defamation by a political leader in Singapore.

"The offending words and images, in their natural and ordinary meaning, meant and were understood to mean that the plaintiff, the Prime Minister of Singapore and Chairman of GIC, is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the Central Provident Fund (CPF)," lawyer Singh wrote in a court filing. 

GIC is a sovereign wealth fund that manages more than $100 billion of the city-state's foreign reserves. CPF is the state pension fund.

Lee had been "brought into public scandal, odium and contempt" and his character and reputation had been "gravely injured" by the accusations, Singh added.

Ngerng has previously said the article was meant to call for greater transparency on how the pension fund is handled.

'calculated and cynical'

On Tuesday, he offered Lee Sg$5,000 as compensation but Lee immediately dismissed it as "derisory" and said Ngerng's earlier apology was "not and never meant to be genuine".

Lee also took offence at subsequent actions by Ngerng, including posting a YouTube video about his legal predicament and sending emails to the media that included alternative links to posts that allegedly carried "offending posts".

In the filing, lawyer Singh described Ngerng's conduct as "calculated and cynical," adding that he acted to "use the libels to promote himself and cause further distress and injury" to Lee.

Singh said Lee was claiming damages, legal costs, and an injunction to stop Ngerng from further defaming Lee, but did not give financial details.

"I will be leaving it to my lawyer M.Ravi to deal with the latest development and the relevant legal procedures," Ngerng told AFP after the court filing.

A pre-trial conference has been set for July 4.

Singapore's local media is tightly controlled, leaving independent bloggers as the strongest critics of the long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

Prominent Singaporean activist Alex Au last year apologised to Lee and removed a post after receiving a notice from Singh. Lee did not pursue damages against Au.

Media firms like Bloomberg, The Economist and Financial Times have previously paid damages and apologised to Singapore leaders including Lee and his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, for publishing articles found to be defamatory.

International human rights groups have accused Singapore leaders of using financially ruinous libel actions to silence critics and political opponents.

But the Lees and other key leaders of the PAP have countered that the lawsuits are necessary to protect their reputations from unfounded attacks. -AFP

Indian cousins found hanging from tree after gang-rape

Posted: 29 May 2014 01:49 AM PDT

LUCKNOW, India: Two teenage girls have been found hanging from a tree in a northern Indian village after they were gang-raped by five men, police said Thursday, in a brutal attack highlighting the country's poor record on sexual violence.

Police have arrested one man over the attack on the cousins, aged 14 and 15 and from the lowest Dalit caste, who were discovered hanging on Wednesday morning in Budaun district of Uttar Pradesh state.

A post-mortem report indicated the cousins hanged themselves late Tuesday after being attacked, police said. The girls had earlier walked into a field to go to the toilet because they didn't have one in their home when they were set upon, according to local media reports.

"The report suggests ante-mortem hanging, which means the girls probably committed suicide. But we will take into account all aspects before coming to a conclusion," Atul Saxena, Budaun police chief, told AFP.

The attack sparked protests by the girls' families and other villagers, who accused police of failing to act after the bodies were found.

Television footage showed the villagers including children sitting on the ground under the tree in protest with the bodies hanging above.

The families belong to the Dalit caste, previously known as "untouchables", considered on the lowest rung of India's deeply entrenched social hierarchy system.

Saxena said police had arrested one suspect after the girls' relatives registered a complaint against five men for gang-rape, murder and child sexual abuse.

"A team of around 50 police officers is on the lookout for the absconding accused," he added. Saxena could not confirm the exact ages of the attackers, but said they were in their "late teens".

Local police officers have also been suspended from duty for their initial apathy over the crime, he said.

'More and more horrendous'

The attack is the latest to highlight India's dismal record on preventing sexual violence, despite tougher laws after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012 shook the nation's conscience.

Earlier this year, a young girl was gang-raped in a remote village in West Bengal state on orders from tribal village elders who objected to her relationship with a Muslim man.

Women's activist and researcher Ranjana Kumari urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his newly elected government to come good on its campaign pledge to improve safety for women.

"Modi must take a stand and say enough because the attacks are just getting more and more horrendous," Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi, told AFP.

"Police attitudes and actions have clearly not improved (since the Delhi gang-rape). Men are targeting girls from minority groups, poor girls and no one cares," she said.

Modi clinched a landslide victory in general elections this month over the left-leaning Congress, thanks in part to a stunning performance by his right-wing Hindu nationalist party in Uttar Pradesh.

Last month, the head of the state's governing party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, told an election rally he was opposed to the death penalty for gang rapists, saying "they are boys, they make mistakes." -AFP


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