Tuesday 23 Apr 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 10): Former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak is requesting the High Court to compel those flaunting the gag order and discuss the merit of his court case and seven criminal charges involving money laundering, criminal breach of trust and abuse of power, to be charged for a contempt of court, which is punishable with a hefty fine or imprisonment term.

Najib's request was argued by his lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah in his application to extend the interim gag order to continue prohibiting the public from discussing the ongoing seven criminal charges through any form of media, so as to avoid a trial by media.

On July 4, High Court Judge Datuk Mohd Sofian Abdul Razak approved Najib's request for an interim gag order, prohibiting the public and the media from discussing the merit of his court case and criminal charges related to RM42 million of funds linked to SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

The interim gag order expires today, and the application to extend the interim court directive was heard before a new High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

Mohd Nazlan replaces Mohd Sofian, who was transferred to a new court not long after he was discovered to be the brother of prominent Umno politician and Pahang state executive member Datuk Seri Mohd Sofi Razak.

In his argument to extend the interim gag order, Muhammad Shafee cited many social media comments and various articles, particularly in The Wall Street Journal, Sarawak Report and Malaysiakini, for publishing media articles and comments that are "venomous" to Najib, and could taint the upcoming trial process.

Apart from being sub judice, Muhamad Shafee said some of the comments and articles are tantamount to insulting the judiciary.

"The whole idea about all these articles is to influence the public and to put pressure [on] the court in handling [the case]," Muhammad Shafee told the court today.

"Anonymous comment accommodated in the media is more dangerous and sinister. I cannot imagine that we have such people in our population with that character," he added, referring to the various "nasty" comments published in various media publications.

"Are we going to allow this thing to be debated in the public when the trial has not even started?" he lamented.

To avoid prejudice and ensure a fair trial, Muhammad Shafee argued that the High Court has the jurisdiction under Sections 121 and 126 of the Federal Constitution to issue and extend the existing interim gag order.

While Muhamad Shafee acknowledged the freedom of press, speech and expression, which is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, he asserted that the High Court must balance that freedom with the concept of a fair trial, as his client is "innocent until proven guilty".

Meanwhile, Muhammad Shafee lambasted Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull for their open attack and branding a vague hint that Najib is guilty.

"I have never seen the head of an investigation agency showing this sort of attitude of making statement prior to the matter being brought before the court," he said, adding that some third parties have been fed with crucial information prior to the upcoming trial.

"There will be witnesses who will come to court under pressure [in the sense that] they will have some idea in their head that the majority wants Najib to be convicted… All this affect the credibility of administration of justice," he added.

The application to extend the interim gag order is still continuing, and the High Court is expected to deliver its verdict later today.

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