High Court warns Najib on making further Facebook posting over ongoing trial

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex July 18, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datuk Seri Najib Razak is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex July 18, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — The High Court today warned Datuk Seri Najib Razak that any additional social media postings pertaining to his ongoing corruption trial would constitute contempt, as a verdict on the matter would only be decided next week.

Earlier today prosecutors had demanded that Najib apologise to the court for posting Facebook comments earlier this week about his ongoing corruption trial.

In the said posting, Najib had attempted to justify an August 8, 2014 spending of over RM3.3 million with his credit cards at a Swiss jewellery store in Italy, a detail that was revealed during his trial.

The High Court will continue to hear the prosecution’s application for an apology from Najib next Monday, as his lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah informed the court that he needed more time to prepare and intends to make full arguments on Monday.

 Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said he was limiting the hearing on the apology matter next Monday to only an hour, before warning Najib that further social media posts on the trial would be contempt of court.

“I will allocate not more than an hour to hear the submissions. In the meantime, anymore postings before this by the accused would be considered in contempt,” the judge said.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas earlier made an application that he wanted a full apology from Najib for what he has done and for Najib to promise not to repeat such actions, arguing that Najib’s comments amount to sub judice — a rule which prohibits comments on matters in an ongoing trial.

Thomas highlighted how Najib’s conduct was in conflict with two legal principles — the doctrine of sub judice and the accused cannot be treated differently from other accused individuals in criminal cases.

“He cannot expect to be treated above others just because he is a former prime minister and has a political audience.

“This practice must cease. I want my lord to direct to the accused to understand what has just been said and to appropriately advise him,” he said.

Thomas said a witness had given evidence on Najib’s credit card spending and the former prime minister had taken to Facebook on July 15 and July 17 to justify the purpose of the expenditures.

Thomas was referring to the 47th prosecution witness who testified on Monday that two credit cards belonging to Najib had been charged RM3.3 million in a single day at Swiss luxury jeweller’s store De Grisogono in Italy in 2014.

Najib, who is also Pekan MP, is currently on trial for alleged abuse of position, money-laundering and criminal breach of trust over RM42 million of funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd, which is a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Thomas said the prosecution is currently presenting its case at this stage of the trial and should the defence be called, Najib would then able to put forward his case in the court of law.

“If he is called to defence and take the witness stand then he can put forward his version, but until then he is not allowed to talk about it,” he said.

He said the prosecution believed Najib had made the Facebook postings about his credit card spending on his personal capacity and without advice from his defence lawyers.

Muhammad Shafee, who was absent during Thomas’s submission in the morning, later said he has not been able to take full instructions from his client today and therefore asked for more time to prepare submissions on the matter.

In a brief submission after lunch, Muhammad Shafee said Najib had only made the statements as the former prime minister felt that there has been unfair coverage by the media.

“The only reason he made those postings is that if he were to make them in the next two months on the matter pertaining to credit card when he is called to defence, as a politician you will never be able to survive.

“The media is prejudiced and blind. The media may be reporting one side and not the whole picture,” he said, citing how parts of a witness testimony given to court yesterday were not reported by the media.

In response to Muhammad Shafee, Thomas, who is also the Public Prosecutor, then said he wanted an undertaking by the accused that there will not be any more posts until the matter is heard before the court.

Muhammad Shafee then protested to Thomas’s request, saying it was against human right but gave assurance to court over his client’s conduct.

“I am sure he will not make any statements (that are) controversial. That I am sure without asking my client,” he said.

The hearing before Mohd Nazlan resumes on at 9am on July 22.

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