No intention of coming to Malaysia to face criminal defamation charge.
The Kuala Terengganu Magistrate’s Court issued a warrant of arrest against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown today for failing to be in court to face a charge of defaming the Sultanah of Terengganu, Sultanah Nur Zahirah.
Magistrate Nordiana Abd Aziz issued the warrant following an application by the prosecution and set Nov 23 for mention.
Deputy public prosecutors Engku Ahmad Rashdi Engku Abdillah, Noor Haslinda Che Seman and Nadia Zulkefli appeared for the prosecution.
Rewcastle-Brown was supposed to appear in court to face a charge under Section 500 of the Penal Code for making disparaging statement about Sultanah Nur Zahirah in her book, “The Sarawak Report – The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose”.
Sultanah Nur Zahirah, who filed the suit on Nov 21, 2018, claimed that the disparaging statement by Rewcastle-Brown could be taken to mean that she was involved in corrupt practices and interfered in Terengganu’s administration besides using her status to influence the establishment of Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), which later became 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
She claimed that the statement also construed her as having helped fugitive businessman Jho Low, or Low Taek Jho, to become the adviser for TIA
Meanwhile, Rewcastle-Brown confirmed that she is currently in the United Kingdom, and indicated that she has no intention of coming to Malaysia to face the charge of criminal defamation initiated.
Rewcastle-Brown said that she had told Malaysian authorities recently that she does not intend to travel to Malaysia, and that the issuing of the arrest warrant was “disgraceful” when she was not given any notice that she would be charged today specifically or that her court attendance was required today.
“The police did notify me some weeks ago they were instructed to charge me and enquired if I would be willing to come to KL to be prosecuted but I advised them that it would not be convenient and that I have no plans to travel to the current Covid world hotspot — which topic ought in my view to be the priority for all those in positions of power with the means to help address the suffering of Malaysians at this time. I am staggered that such a distraction should have become a focus for the authorities,” she said.
As for the warrant of arrest, she said that no notification was given to her at all of the day they would be charging her, and that the first she had heard about today’s case was through the news today.
“I can absolutely confirm that I was given no notice whatsoever of this charge or court event,” she said, adding that she had already said she would not be in Malaysia when asked about two months ago if she intended to “cooperate”.
“I made clear at that time that I had no plans to be in Malaysia. However, no notification was made of the actual laying of charges or this date… It is pretty disgraceful I have to say,” she said, later adding that she had not been sent a copy of the charge sheet or anything of that nature.
“If no one tells you that they want you to be in court on Friday to face a charge, how can you be arrested for not turning up? I had certainly advised I would not be anticipating being in KL,” she said.
She also said those attempting to extradite her will meet with a “fog of confusion” as there is no such thing as criminal defamation under British law.
“They will get the same negative response they humiliatingly received when they attempted to extradite me under a Red Notice (terrorism) Alert for exposing the scandal of 1MDB,” she said.
She said this was a politically motivated case and the revival of this “previously dismissed” criminal complaint by the Sultanah represents “a blatant abuse of power and influence within Malaysia”.
She also said she cooperated with enquiries by Bukit Aman in 2018, where she clarified that the meaning of the sentence the complainant had issues with was not at all what was being alleged and that no insult to the Sultanah or her sister-in-law was implied.
“Indeed, I am concerned there was an attempt to deceive the Sultanah as to the meaning of the short sentence in order to provoke this case.”
Her suspicion of malignant intent in this regard, she added, was strengthened by the fact that the “offending sentence” submitted in the report made to the police was substantially altered by the substitution of no less than three words from the original text.
“But these ‘mistakes’ were made and they coincidentally had the effect of skewing the meaning of the sentence more in the direction of the allegation of the complainants,” she added.
As for the separate civil defamation lawsuit by the Terengganu Sultanah against her that is set to be heard in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur in December, Rewcastle-Brown agreed that she would be attending the court proceedings virtually.
“Yes — I have consented to address the Sultanah’s civil suit, which she ought to have presented in London given I have no ties to Malaysia and have no plans to be there,” she said, adding that lawyers in the UK would have said that there is no case to pursue as her sentence was allegedly not defamatory.
This December, four witnesses, including the Terengganu Sultanah herself, are expected to personally attend court proceedings to testify in the defamation lawsuit, as the Court of Appeal had this August decided that the trial should be decided based on a full hearing and not on points of law only.