Najib’s Defence Team Seeks To Recuse CJ In Appeal

Lead counsel Hisyam Teh said it is best to deal with the CJ recusal bid before the defence proceeds with the appeal proper

Putrajaya – Former Prime Minister Najib Razak has sought to recuse Chief Justice (CJ) Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat from the Federal Court panel hearing his final appeal in the SCR International corruption case which resumed today.

In an unexpected twist, lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told the court that the defence filed the application Monday (22 Aug).

Ad hoc prosecutor V. Sithambaram confirmed that they have been served an unsealed copy.

Hisyam urged the court to dispose of Najib’s bid to recuse Tengku Maimun before the defence argued their case.

He said that he wishes to emphasise that this application is being made with the greatest of respect.

Tengku Maimun then directed the court registrar to get a copy of the documents which had been filed by the lawyer before making it clear that any decision on the recusal application was up to the bench.

CJ Said Not To Waste Time

Tengku Maimun then asked what would happen to the main appeal. “We are here not to waste time,” she said.

In response, Hisyam said it is best to deal with the recusal bid before the defence proceeds with the appeal proper.

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, who is a member of the panel, interjected and suggested that Hisyam responds to the prosecution’s argument on points of law about how courts can decide a case if lawyers do not file anything before the court.

After Hisyam responded to the prosecution’s point on law, Tengku Maimun said the court would stand down, and instructed the court’s registrar to fetch the documents on Najib’s recusal bid.

In Najib’s application, the Pekan member of parliament said he was making the application not to disrespect the court and the ongoing proceedings but in the interest of protecting the independence of the judiciary. 

He said he had received information about a Facebook post made by Tengku Maimun’s husband, Datuk Zamani Ibrahim on May 11, 2018 which touched on Barisan Nasional’s (BN) defeat in the 14th General Election (GE14) and Najib’s leadership.

Najib said the social media post was highly disturbing in light of the fact that Zamani had clearly shown negative sentiments towards his leadership while he was prime minister. 

He said Zamani had concluded that he had siphoned sovereign government funds into his personal accounts. 

“Being the husband of the chairperson that is adjudicating my appeal, it is likely that he would have influenced the thinking of the mind of the chairperson as to my alleged culpability. 

“I further state that considering the nature of their spousal relationship, it is likely that the mind of the learned chairperson would have been unconsciously influenced by the sentiments against me held by her ladyship’s husband. 

“Based on all the above, any findings by this Honourable Court made against me would be subject to scepticism. An informed and fair-minded observer will perceive that the decisions procured are tainted with bias and the public perception of the independence of the judiciary will be in doubt,” he said. 

Najib also brought up how the original High Court Judge who was supposed to preside over his SRC trial had been replaced just because his brother was an Umno member in Pahang. 

He also said that another judge, who was supposed to hear the application for the admission of Queen’s Counsel Jonathan Laidlaw to represent him, had also refused to do so because his brother too was an active Umno politician. 

“Hence, this court, being the apex court of the country must also adhere to the similar high standards as expounded by the High Court judges,” he said. 

Walk For Justice

Najib said he also viewed Tengku Maimun’s stand not to object members of the bar applying for an adjournment to attend the Walk for Justice on June 17 as disturbing. 

He said the walk was organised to oppose any investigation against Justice Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who had convicted him over the SRC case. 

He said Tengku Maimun’s stand on the matter may lead to her not having an open mind when deciding on his application to introduce fresh evidence.

The other apex court judges sitting on the panel are Nallini Pathmanathan, Mary Lim and Zabidin Diah.

Meanwhile, the Palace of Justice was filled with Najib’s supporters who braved the rain in Putrajaya this morning.

They arrived as early as 7am. However, there were no sight of Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) officers around.

Najib is appealing against his conviction on all seven charges brought against him for abuse of power, misappropriation and money laundering involving RM42 million of funds belonging to SRC International.

He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and a RM210 million fine two years ago. – NMH

More to follow.

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