(File pix) Hundreds gathered outside the Penang High Court here this morning for the commencement of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's (centre) defamation suit against lawyer Datuk Ranjit Singh Dhillon, the New Straits Times (NST) and two of its reporters. Pix by Ghazali Kori

GEORGE TOWN: Hundreds gathered outside the Penang High Court here this morning for the commencement of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's defamation suit against lawyer Datuk Ranjit Singh Dhillon, the New Straits Times (NST) and two of its reporters.

Anwar’s supporters were heard chanting "Reformasi" and "Bebas Anwar", as the former opposition leader was escorted to the High Court building by police.

A heavy police presence was noticeable around the court building, with officers guarding the exits and main entrance.

Police roadblocks had also been set up at streets near the venue.

Also seen at the court were Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, Anwar's wife and PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar's daughter and Lembah Pantai member of Parliament Nurul Izzah, Anwar's family members and several PKR and DAP members of Parliament and assemblymen.

Anwar had filed a suit against Ranjit, a former Penang bar criminal law committee chairman, NST and its specialist writer, Adrian Lai and former reporter, Looi Sue-Chern.

The suit is filed based on a news article titled ‘Declare your assets, if you have nothing to hide', published on Aug 6, 2013 in NST’s print edition.

Anwar is seeking damages deemed fit by the court and also an apology by all defendants to be published in the NST.

Ranjit, in his defence statement, said his comments (as quoted in the article) were a ‘fair comment on matters of public interest’.

In their joint statement of claim, NST, Lai and Looi said the report was based on statements made by Ranjit and politician Zamil Ibrahim, and that they have a moral obligation to publish stories of public interest.

Anwar is represented by S Raveentharan, while Ranjit is represented by Baljit Singh.

NST, Lai and Looi are represented by Ellia Zuraini Mat Zin from Raja Riza & Associates.

The case will be heard before Justice Rosilah Yop.

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