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Singapore PM, father win defamation damages

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Singapore PM, father win defamation damages
Singapore's high court ordered an opposition party and its leaders to pay S$610,000 ($415,800) in defamation damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew, Reuters reported citing court documents Monday.

The outcome is likely to result in the shut down of the opposition party Singapore Democratic Party, said its leader Chee Soon Juan, who is due to pay the damages together with sister Chee Siok Chin and six others.

Chee Soon Juan said the deadline for payment had not been set but they will not pay because they are bankrupt, after they failed to pay libel payments and legal costs in previous lawsuits.

If the damages are not paid the SDP party will be declared bankrupt, he said.

"It's not unexpected. But it's not going to deter us from doing what we have been doing, and that is speaking up for issues that Singaporeans should know about," Chee Soon Juan said.

The damages were the latest in a series paid to Singapore's ruling politicians, who have repeatedly sued the opposition and foreign media over the years.

Critics say the lawsuits are used to crush opposition, but Singapore's leaders say they need the lawsuits to protect their reputations against defamatory remarks.

The SDP was found to have defamed the Lees, two of Singapore's most powerful leaders -- Lee Kuan Yew is the founder of modern Singapore -- in 2006 after the SDP compared the government to the country's largest charity in a party newspaper.

The charity shot to notoriety in 2005 after its chief admitted to misusing public donations for extravagancies such as gold-plated taps in his office bathroom. He was forced to quit and has since been sentenced to three months in jail.

"There were serious allegations of corruption, dishonesty, nepotism and financial impropriety which the defendants persisted in maintaining without foundation to the end," the court document showed.

The document said "the libel struck at the core" of the Lees' "life achievements and personalities", and the damages took into account "the position, standing and reputation" of the Lees.

Singapore leaders have sued or won damages in the past from foreign media groups including the Economist, International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg.

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