Shafee rebuked over remarks against judge

Court of Appeal judge tells lead defence counsel ‘to find better adjective’ and ‘give respect’

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by BERNAMA

THE Court of Appeal reprimanded Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s lead defence counsel, Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (picture), for improperly criticising High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who delivered the verdict in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.

Court of Appeal Justice Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil asked Muhammad Shafee to be more courteous in his words when describing the judge’s competency in presiding over the trial.

“Find a better adjective to describe him. Give respect to the judge. Use words like ‘grossly erred’, ‘he had misdirected himself’…not just say he is ‘hopelessly incompetent’,” Abdul Karim said at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya yesterday.

Muhammad Shafee then told the judge he “could not pull punches”.

Abdul Karim, who is leading a three-member bench, said the defence counsel could still do so, but respectfully.

Earlier, Muhammad Shafee told the court that Najib did not get a fair trial, arguing that the trial judge had incorporated additional elements in his judgment grounds and record of proceedings which raised questions about whether the judge had poisoned his judgment.

“Has the poison occurred to his grounds of judgment that the Court of Appeal would now have to relook into the grounds, fresh?” Muhammad Shafee said.

He had previously submitted that Mohd Nazlan had stated that the prosecution had established a prima facie case in his oral grounds, but the written judgment after convicting Najib had included additional reasons why Najib was asked to enter his defence.

He said it was prejudicial to the accused and a serious misdirection by the judge.

On Monday, Muhammad Shafee told the court that the SRC International case was heard by a judge that had no experience in criminal trials but was assigned to preside over a “case of the century”.

He argued that Mohd Nazlan, who was previously in the High Court commercial division, was not qualified to hear the SRC International trial.

On July 28, 2020, Najib was sentenced to 12 years of jail and fined RM210 million for abuse of power involving RM42 million funds misappropriated from SRC International.

Mohd Nazlan also sentenced Najib to 10 years of jail each for three criminal breach of trust (CBT) offences and 10 years of jail each for three money-laundering offences committed in the fund’s embezzlement.

Najib created history by being the first former prime minister in Malaysia to be convicted of graft crimes.

Besides Abdul Karim, other judges on the bench are Justices Datuk Has Zanah Mehat and Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera.

The Court of Appeal has fixed 12 days for the appeal hearing.