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KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — The prosecution today said it would be seeking to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Datuk Seri Najib Razak over his reported remarks of hoping to get a “fair trial” in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case.
Today is the first day that Najib’s 1MDB trial returns to court after the implementation of the movement control order (MCO), having been put on hold since last November to give way for Najib’s other trials.
Ad-hoc prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who is leading the prosecution, today raised the news report dated March 4 containing Najib’s comments on the 1MDB trial, which he is currently facing.
Sri Ram said he was unable to raise this complaint earlier as the defence team was not available during a previous court date, due to a Covid-19 scare at that time that resulted in Najib’s lawyers being quarantined.
“On 4 March 2020, there’s a report which reports the accused as having said that with the fall of the government that ousted him, he now expects an atmosphere more conducive to a fair hearing and he added that I would expect more conducive towards a fair trial.
“That’s a very serious allegation, meaning Your Lordship’s court emanated an atmosphere of an unfair trial until the change of the government,” he told the High Court when describing what Najib’s remarks may imply.
Sri Ram said the prosecution would be making a formal application before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah as the remarks appear to involve the latter’s court.
Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, however, said he had checked with his client regarding the news report, arguing that his client was not referring to the High Court with the remark regarding “fair trial”.
Shafee said that a change of government could refer to the removal of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, adding: “It does not say Yang Arif at all.”
“So in that context, perhaps I can persuade My Lord to rethink about it, in the entire three paragraph, that’s what he said,” the lawyer said.
In the news report by Reuters dated March 4, Najib was reported saying that the fall of the government that ousted him meant he now expected an atmosphere more conducive to a fair hearing.
“I would expect that the atmosphere would be more conducive towards a fair trial.
“I’m not alluding to anything, because there’s no conclusion to the trial... But hopefully, you know, I will get a fair trial,” he was quoted saying.
Later when met by reporters after court proceedings, Shafee insisted that his client Najib did not commit any contempt of court, claiming that the latter was not referring to the atmosphere inside the courts.
Shafee claimed that Najib’s “atmosphere” remark was in reference to verbal attacks by others outside court such as through the labelling of him as a “thief” or “robber” while trial was ongoing to determine whether he stole money, arguing that such a situation would amount to an “atmosphere not conducive to a fair trial”.