Athletics: Defamation trial over 2015 SEA Games marathon race draws to a close

The dispute between Ashley Liew (left) and Soh Rui Yong began in October 2018.
The dispute between Ashley Liew (left) and Soh Rui Yong began in October 2018.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The trial in the defamation suit brought on by former national marathoner Ashley Liew against ex-teammate Soh Rui Yong drew to a close on Tuesday (June 8) after 10 days in court.

The last witness to take the stand at the State Court was Madankumar Balakrishnan, a friend and training partner of Soh, who had witnessed the 2015 SEA Games marathon race which is at the centre of the case.

During cross-examination, Balakrishnan was quizzed by Lim Tianjun from Liew’s legal team on where he had stated he was positioned during the race.

A day earlier, Soh's father, Seow Hong, who was also present at the race in 2015, had taken the stand to give his recollection of events. A 30-second long video of the race was also played in court.

Other witnesses who have taken the stand during the trial, which commenced on Sept 1, 2020, include Japanese-Cambodian marathoner Kuniaki Takizaki who participated in the race, distance running coach Steven Quek, as well as Soh, 29, and Liew, 34.

Both plaintiff and defendant are now required to submit their closing submissions by July 27, with a verdict due thereafter.

The dispute between both parties began in October 2018, when Soh, in a Facebook post, disputed Liew's account of an incident that occurred during the 2015 SEA Games race held in Singapore that Soh had won.

Liew, a chiropractor, said he had slowed down to allow other runners to catch up after they missed a U-turn and took the wrong path.

He later received two awards for his act of sportsmanship from the Singapore National Olympic Council and the International Fair Play Committee - which awarded him the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy - as well as praise from Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his 2015 National Day Rally.

Liew is accusing Soh of defaming him in five instances via comments made on social media and is seeking damages, to be assessed, of up to a maximum of $250,000.

In November 2020, Soh filed an application for the recusal of District Judge Lee Li Choon, alleging bias, which was dismissed in January. An appeal against the decision was rejected on April 30.

Soh announced a day after the appeal failed that Eugene Thuraisingam and Chooi Jing Yen of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP - the firm which had represented him at the start of the case - had taken over from Clarence Lun of Fervent Chambers, as his lead counsel, citing the recusal application as a factor in his decision.

Liew is represented by Mark Teng and Lim of That.Legal LLC.