Members of the legal community have hit out at their colleague Muhammad Shafee Abdullah over his remarks against the prosecution in his defence of former prime minister Najib Razak, saying the lawyer breached the profession’s code of conduct with his “callous” words.
As an officer of the court, they said, Shafee, a senior lawyer, had a duty to maintain decorum to preserve and defend the reputation of the Malaysian Bar.
They said the Bar Council as well as Attorney-General (AG) Tommy Thomas along with anyone aggrieved by Shafee’s “antics” in and outside the court, should file a complaint with the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board.
Lawyer SN Nair said it was unnecessary for Shafee to make “personal” comments and put labels on the prosecution when criminal charges had been framed against the ex-prime minister.
“The prosecution is entitled to amend the charges at any stage before the close of the case if they are defective,” he added.
Nair, who was a counsel in Anwar Ibrahim’s two sodomy trials, said lawyers who were not politicians in the legal team never went overboard in attacking the prosecution, especially outside the courtroom.
“Anwar was critical about the prosecution and the government but he could do so because he was not an officer of the court,” he told FMT.
He was responding to Shafee’s remarks during proceedings on Thursday that the six criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges of RM6.6 billion against Najib and former Treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah were “atrocious and absurd”.
He later told the media: “We will have fun and the prosecution will have nightmares.”
Shafee, who is defending Najib in 32 other charges of CBT, money laundering and abuse of power related to 1MDB and its former unit SRC International, also called the latest charges “foolish”.
Lawyer M Visvanathan said Shafee had displayed improper etiquette by running down the prosecution as all deputy public prosecutors are also officers of the court.
“He may disagree with the charges and can raise this during the trial,” he said, adding that Shafee, as Najib’s defence counsel, could promote his client’s interests by cross-examining prosecution witnesses in court.
“He could even have written to the AG to review and drop the charges if he strongly believed the action against his client was frivolous.”
However, he said Shafee’s misconduct was evident as he had been seen ridiculing and questioning the administration of justice.
Lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali dismissed Shafee’s words against the prosecution as a red herring, calling them a feeble attempt to persuade the public that Najib was being persecuted.
“He is trying to build up a positive aura for his client at the expense of the prosecution which has exercised restraint,” he said.
He added that attempting to influence and win public support for Najib was secondary as what mattered the most was the court battle before the trial judge.
Rafique said it was unethical for Shafee to conduct a trial by media by attacking the prosecution and seeking to portray Najib as innocent.
“It is the judge who will decide whether Najib and Irwan are guilty as charged, or whether the defence has created doubt in the prosecution’s case to get an acquittal.” – FMT
Related report: Oct 25, Shafee Says will have “Fun” with “Foolish” New Charges