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Appeals Court rejects MKini's application on Najib's suit

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 3 (Bernama) -- Online news portal publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd and two of its editors have failed to recuse a Seremban High Court Judge from hearing a libel suit filed against them by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Court of Appeal's three-man bench led by Justice Datuk David Wong Dak Wah today dismissed the appeal brought by Mkini Dotcom, its editor-in-chief, Steven Gan and chief editor Fathi Aris Omar as they had not reached the threshold of the real danger of bias test.

"Hence we (the panel) dismiss the appeal," said Justice Wong who heard the appeal with Justices Datuk Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid and Datuk Mary Lim.

The panel also awarded RM5,000 in costs to Najib and Umno executive secretary Datuk Ab Rauf Yusoh, who were respondents in the appeal.

The court made the ruling after hearing submissions from lawyer Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar representing the three appellants and Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun acting for the two respondents.

The three appellants had appealed against the decision by Seremban High Court Judge Datuk Wira Kamaludin Md Said who rejected their application to recuse him from hearing the suit.

Najib, who is suing in his personal capacity, and Ab Rauf filed the libel suit against the three over a series of readers' posts published on their website.

The law suit centred on two articles published by Malaysiakini on the www.malaysiakini.com portal on May 14, 2014, which they claimed had marred their reputation and sparked allusions that Umno was incompetent as a political body and backbone of the Barisan Nasional.

Earlier Mohd Hafarizam submitted that Chief Judge of Malaya had absolute discretion to allow the judge (Kamaludin) to hear the case despite his transfer to Seremban.

He also told the bench that there was no danger of bias in the case as the judge was not involved in the mediation process for parties to discuss the possibility to settle the suit.

He explained that the word "M" appeared in the court record meant that the case has been fixed for mention and not mediation.

"There was no mediation, and therefore no real danger of bias," he said.

Meanwhile, Malik Imtiaz submitted that there was no justification to have Justice Kamaludin to hear the case over other judges in the Kuala Lumpur High Court and there was a danger of bias as the judge had been involved in settlement discussions.

Mohd Hafarizam later told reporters that the case was fixed for case management this Friday before Justice Kamaludin.

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