Najib’s SRC appeal: Sithambaram rebukes Najib’s lawyers for unwarranted claim of biased judge

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Rebuking defence counsel for calling trial judge biased, incompetent and acting as second prosecutor, lead prosecutor says lawyers cannot overstep the bounds of propriety and courtesy while representing their client.

Datuk V Sithambaram said Najib’s lawyers had made serious, unfair and unfounded allegations against Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who could not respond even though whatever said was totally unjustified.

“Judges are just doing their judicious duty. Unfounded allegations in cases such as this which are of national interest will bring disrepute to the administration of justice.

“People read about this case every day. They will go on thinking that judges are biased…that they are all useless and not qualified to sit. These are all very serious allegations which were uttered without any basis at all,” he said.

Najib’s legal team contended that Nazlan demonstrated bias due to the trial judge allegedly adding further reasons in the prima facie ruling that ordered the accused to enter his defence to the seven charges.

On Nov 10, 2019, the high court ordered Najib to enter his defence against the seven charges, after the court found that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case. At the time, Nazlan had given a brief summary of the prima facie ruling.

Following Najib’s conviction and sentencing at the end of the defence’s case on July 28 last year, the high court later released its full grounds for judgment, which included in-depth detail for the judge’s earlier prima facie ruling.

Najib’s defence team contended that the former premier had been prejudiced by the matter, as there was alleged misdirection by the trial judge in relation to the prima facie ruling.

Mohd Fadli Hamzah/NST

The former premier’s legal team claimed, among others, that the prosecution established a new case during the cross-examination of Najib during the defence stage of the SRC trial, which was allegedly contrary to the prima facie case established at the end of the prosecution’s case.

Sithambaram said it should be noted that lawyers cannot overstep the bounds of propriety and courtesy while representing their client.

“It is, of course, the duty of counsels to act fearlessly and with all the force and vigour at their disposal in the interest of their clients.

“However, they must equally remember that in the discharge of their duties they cannot abuse the privilege of appearing in court. If they overstep the lines, they must be cautioned.

“In our vigour to represent our clients, we must not drag the judge into the arena of conflict or subject him to personal attacks,” he said.

Sithambaram said the Court of Appeal bench hearing Najib’s appeal must not take any notice of the defence’s contention that Nazlan’s judgment was tainted or biased, or that it was written by an incompetent judge who was complicit with the prosecution to get Najib convicted.

“All this must be rejected. His judgment has considered all the law and evidence and was made bona fide without any biasness.

Mohd Fadli Hamzah/NST

“There is no basis to say the judge was (acting as) ‘second prosecutor’ or hopelessly incompetent or demonstrated incompetence,” Sithambaram said.

The DPP added that it is important for the prosecution to make this submission, as Nazlan is unable to defend himself against the allegations hurled against him.

Nazlan was the judge who convicted Najib, who is also former Umno president, of all seven charges of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering involving RM42 million of SRC funds.

He sentenced Najib to 12 years’ jail and also ordered the Pekan Member of Parliament to pay RM210 million fine during the sentencing in July last year.

However, from the onset of Najib’s appeal hearing which started last Monday, his lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and others in the defence team, had some choice words for Nazlan’s findings.

It was reported that Shafee said his client should never have been ordered to enter defence against the charges, let alone to be convicted of the offences.

He accused the judge of misconstruing the concepts of law before going on to say that Nazlan was inexperienced to handle what he termed was the case of the century.

The senior counsel was later reminded by the lead judge hearing the appeal hearings to stop using words like hopelessly incompetent, poisonous judgment and blunder when arguing against Nazlan’s findings.

The hearing before Court of Appeal judges Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, Datuk Has Zanah Mehat and Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera continues.

Earlier reports:

Apr 20, Najib’s SRC appeal: Defence team scored their own goal in admitting the BBM chats as evidence

Apr 20, Najib’s SRC appeal: Defence nothing but a cock and bull story

Apr 15, Najib’s SRC appeal: Apandi actually held up proof of wrongdoing while declaring Najib’s innocence

Apr 15, Najib’s SRC appeal: SRC a sham

Apr 14, Najib’s SRC appeal: Najib had total control of SRC

Apr 14, Najib’s SRC appeal: SRC acted in Najib’s interest, not government’s

Apr 13, Najib’s SRC appeal: Defence claims High Court judge had “desire” to hold Najib to account

Apr 8, Najib’s SRC appeal: Judge reminds Najib’s lawyer not to repeat points already raised

Apr 7, Najib’s SRC appeal: Defence blames Jho Low for transfer of RM42m from SRC

Apr 6, Shafee in appeal: Judge in Najib’s SRC trial erred