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Najib’s lawyer wants trial put off ‘until things cool down’

Free Malaysia Today logo Free Malaysia Today 10/8/2018 V Anbalagan
a man wearing a suit and tie: No link between new charges, Equanimity, says Najib’s lawyer © Free Malaysia Today No link between new charges, Equanimity, says Najib’s lawyer

Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah says his client, Najib Razak, is innocent until proven guilty.

KUALA LUMPUR: Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the lead counsel for Najib Razak, proposed in the High Court today that the former prime minister’s trial be postponed “until things cool down”.

He said there had been a lot of adverse comments against his client, adding that while he was making the submission today, there were already negative remarks circulating on Twitter.

“This trial must be postponed until things cool down,” he said in arguing for a gag order, issued at a previous court hearing to stop the media from carrying prejudicial reports during the trial, to be made permanent.

“The gag order must be enforced to prevent giving ‘oxygen’ to bad publicity,” he added.

However, Shafee said the defence did not mind the media carrying reports of adverse comments made by the trial judge or witnesses in the course of the trial.

He said Najib was entitled to a fair trial in court and not a trial by media.

“The constitution gives an accused person the right to a fair trial and the court must give effect to that right,” he said, adding that Najib was innocent until proven guilty and must be accorded the benefit of the doubt.

However, he said Najib had already been declared guilty of the barrage of charges framed against him following adverse remarks made by those in authority and carried by the media.

Shafee specifically mentioned whistleblower site Sarawak Report, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Shukri Abdull, former lawyer and current Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Damansara MP Tony Pua as those who made disparaging remarks about Najib in relation to the case.

“They made crude, rude and venomous statements about my client,” he said, adding that the court had the jurisdiction to punish anyone for contempt of court for remarks made in the trial.

He said the court must be vigilant otherwise witnesses would come under pressure when outsiders made comments about their testimonies in court.

Meanwhile, deputy public prosecutor Mohd Hanafiah Zakaria submitted that Najib was wrong to make the public prosecutor a party to enforce the gag order.

“The order should be specific to a person and not to the world at large,” he added.

Hanafiah said the public had the right to make comments and the court would not be influenced in its decision.

He also said Najib could initiate contempt proceedings or file a defamation suit against individuals should unfair comments be made when the trial started.

Hanafiah said Najib was charged with criminal breach of trust and abuse of power on July 4 but he had not filed police reports against anyone for interfering in the court case.

He risks a 20-year jail term and a fine for each of the charges.

On Wednesday, Najib also claimed trial to three charges of money laundering in the transfer of RM42 million from former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International into his bank account.

If convicted under Section 4 (1) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act, he will face a maximum of 15 years in jail and a fine.

All the charges relate to SRC International, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary of 1MDB but was later placed under the Minister of Finance Inc.

Shafee says gag order to stop judgemental statements on Najib

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