Zahid allegedly met Mahathir five times between 2018 and 2020.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad said a reasonable man would infer that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had met him several times while he was in power to help “resolve” criminal cases filed against him.
Mahathir, who was prime minister between May 2018 and Feb 2020, said Zahid had met him at least five times at the Yayasan Kepimpinan Perdana, at the Prime Minister’s Office and at his home in the Mines Resort City between June 6, 2018 and Feb 25, 2020.
During that period, he said, Zahid was not holding any public office, including that of Cabinet minister.
“So, the meeting with the plaintiff (Zahid) during that time could not be about the management and administration of the country,” Mahathir said in his defence filed to rebut Zahid’s defamation suit filed last month.
Mahathir said Zahid, who is also Bagan Datuk MP, met him even when he was interim prime minister from Feb 24 to Feb 29, 2020, and had expressed anxiety over his political future due to the charges hanging over his head.
The Langkawi MP, who filed the defence through Messrs Haidir & Co today, said activist Khairuddin Abu Hassan had posted on his Facebook account that Zahid had met him (Khairuddin) to arrange for a meeting with him (Mahathir).
He said Khairuddin had also volunteered to give evidence if Zahid was serious about pursuing the suit.
“It is true that Zahid had raised the issue of his prosecution. The defendant has also identified witnesses to prove the meetings took place,” Mahathir said.
The nonagenarian said a reasonable man who had the capacity to think would conclude that Zahid’s aim in meeting him when he was in power was an attempt to resolve the criminal cases confronting him.
Mahathir is also relying on the defence of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege to defeat the suit.
In asking the court to dismiss the suit, Mahathir said Zahid had no cause of action and the suit was frivolous and an abuse of the court process.
The 96-year-old politician is also opposing Zahid’s application for an interim injunction from repeating or publishing the alleged defamatory words on any media platform pending the disposal of the suit.
Zahid filed the suit on April 27 after Mahathir made a statement that he (Zahid) had gone to his (Mahathir’s) house with two or three others soon after the 14th general election.
Mahathir, who is now the Pejuang chairman, made the statement at a party event at Yayasan Perdana in Putrajaya on Feb 23. A video recording was posted on several news portals.
Zahid claimed the words uttered by Mahathir were untrue, unwarranted, unsubstantiated and mischievous.
He said that by innuendo, the words meant he had a bad image, and that he did not respect the authorities or the justice system.
Further, he said, they meant that as an MP and the most senior Umno leader, he could not be trusted in his actions or decisions.
Zahid said they also meant that he wanted to use his position to influence the then prime minister to meddle in the prosecution.
The Umno leader said he never met Mahathir for help to resolve the cases against him.
He has also filed a similar suit against Muhyiddin Yassin, who is said to have made a similar claim during the Johor elections campaign.
Muhyiddin was the prime minister between March 2020 and August last year.
Zahid is standing trial on a total of 80 corruption charges.