Top court upholds ruling to award lawyer Eric Paulsen RM100,000 in defamation suit against Muslim activist

The panel also ordered Mohamad Hafiz to pay RM10,000 in costs. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
The panel also ordered Mohamad Hafiz to pay RM10,000 in costs. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — Civil liberties lawyer Eric Paulsen must be paid RM100,000 in damages from a defamation suit against Muslim activist Mohamed Hafiz Mohamed Nordin as ruled previously by the Court of Appeal, the country’s apex court affirmed today. 

A three-judge panel chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed at the Federal Court threw out Hafiz’s leave to appeal the earlier decision on grounds his questions posed in the application did not fulfil the conditions of Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act.

The Federal Court awarded Paulsen an additional RM10,000 in costs which is to be paid by Hafiz.

The other two judges were Datuk Seri Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat.

Lawyers Latheefa Koya and Shahid Adli Kamarudin appeared for Paulsen while Mohamed Hafiz was represented by Haznal Rezua Merican.

“Basically the Federal Court dismissed the leave application as there was no merits in the application,” Latheefa told Malay Mail in a brief message, confirming the Federal Court decision in favour of Paulsen today.

On July 18, 2018, the Court of Appeal awarded Paulsen RM100,000 in damages after it ruling that Hafiz’s statement is defamatory.

The case can be traced back to September 2015, when conservative Muslim group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) filed a RM3 million defamation suit against Paulsen for his tweet which it claimed gave the impression it was an extremist movement and that its members were drawn to militancy and supported the terror attack on a satirical French weekly.

Paulsen filed a counterclaim in October the same year against Isma and Hafiz for publishing an article titled “Jangan biar Eric Paulsen bebas tanpa perbicaraan” (Do not free Eric Paulsen without trial) on its website, which he asserted portrayed him as a liar and an instigator.

Both Paulsen and Isma later withdrew their defamation suits against each other after reaching an out-of-court settlement in March 2016.

But Paulsen continued his suit against Hafiz that resulted in the High Court ruling in favour of Paulsen. In the July 2017 decision, the High Court said Paulsen had proven his case against Hafiz as the statement referred to him.

However, the High Court held that Paulsen failed to show that the statement uttered by the Pembela activist had lowered his standing in society, and that it had caused the public to view him negatively.

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