-By Saeed Azhar, Dow Jones Newswires; 65 6415 4157; firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday August 3rd, 2006 / 7h15
SINGAPORE -(Dow Jones)- The Singapore judge hearing a defamation suit brought by the city-state's top leaders against democracy campaigner Chee Soon Juan has disqualified himself from the case to avoid a perception of bias, lawyers said Thursday.
The hearing for a summary judgment against Chee, who is secretary-general of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, and his sister Chee Siok Chin has been adjourned until a new judge is named, the lawyers said after a closed session of the High Court.
Chee's lawyer M. Ravi told reporters that his heated argument with High Court Justice Woo Bih Li in another case had created an impression in the media that there would be "likelihood of bias" if Woo heard the defamation case.
Jeffrey Chan, a lawyer representing the Attorney General's office, told reporters this was the first time in Singapore's judicial history that a judge had disqualified himself from a case.
Woo isn't biased but "feels it is the interest of justice that he disqualifies himself from the case," said Ravi, a high-profile campaigner against the death penalty in Singapore.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, allege they were defamed by an article in the SDP's newspaper that linked corruption at the National Kidney Foundation to the way the city-state is run.
Chee is barred from campaigning or standing in elections after being bankrupted in February for failing to pay S$500,000 in libel damages to Lee Kuan Yew and former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.
He was jailed for eight days in March for contempt of court after criticizing the independence of the city-state's judges.
-Edited by Stephen Wright and Mary de Wet