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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 ― Datuk Seri Najib Razak is expected to file a defamation suit against former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas this week over the latter’s comments regarding the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case which allegedly portrayed him to be a murderer, Najib’s lawyer said today.
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who is also representing Najib in his 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption trial, also revealed plans to possibly initiate contempt of court proceedings against Thomas over the same remarks in the book.
“This week, we got until Friday, we are fine-tuning it, in fact we may go for even something else together with defamation, it could be another contempt based on the same statement,” he told reporters at the Kuala Lumpur court complex when asked when Najib would be filing the defamation suit.
“The defamation is definite, the contempt, 98 per cent we are filing. This week. We have to give him a show cause first,” Shafee said.
While the murder case had already been decided at the Federal Court in 2015 with two former police commandos convicted over Altantuya’s murder, Shafee said that there was no need for an ongoing case in order to start contempt proceedings against Thomas.
“No, if you say something that insulted the credibility of the court, that is scandalising the court, you can say it 50 years from now, it is still scandalising the court,” Shafee said.
Explaining why he felt Najib had been defamed through remarks in Thomas’ book, which was released on January 30, Shafee said that Najib had not been implicated in the Altantuya murder case that had already been decided by the Federal Court in 2015 and that a bid by former police commando Azilah Hadri to have his murder conviction reviewed and for a retrial of the Altantuya case was also rejected by the Federal Court in 2020.
Shafee today claimed that Thomas had in his book said he believed the two former police officers Azilah and Sirul Azhar Umar — who were convicted in the Altantuya murder case — when they claimed that Najib had allegedly ordered the murder, which Shafee said amounts to defamation.
“It’s up to him to prove that my client is involved in the murder. It’s going to be one uphill battle for him,” Shafee claimed, later also saying that Najib was never charged over Altantuya’s murder.
As to why he believed that Thomas’ remarks could amount to contempt of court, Shafee claimed that it was equivalent to disrespecting the court’s decision and an attack on the court’s reputation by espousing the belief that Najib was allegedly involved in the murder based on what Sirul and Azilah said.
On February 2, Najib had via his lawyers served a letter of demand on Thomas, seeking the latter’s apology and retraction of comments made in Chapter 42 of his memoir My Story: Justice in the Wilderness.
Among other things, Najib’s lawyers had in the letter of demand said that Thomas’ allegedly untrue and defamatory statements in the book had conveyed the message that Najib was purportedly involved in directing Altantuya’s murder.
In the February 2 letter of demand, Najib had demanded that Thomas retract the contentious statements from the book, and publish an apology in newspapers, and undertake to not repeat the remarks, besides demanding for RM10 million to be paid as compensation for the alleged injury to Najib’s reputation.
Najib’s lawyers had in the letter said that they were instructed to start legal proceedings against Thomas by early next week, if no satisfactory reply was received from Thomas before noon on February 5.
Local daily New Straits Times later reported Thomas as having via his lawyers replied in a letter dated February 4 to Najib’s lawyers, in which he denied defaming Najib as claimed in the latter’s letter of demand.
On February 6, national news agency Bernama reported Shafee as confirming that Najib would be filing a defamation suit against Thomas and the latter’s book publisher as soon as possible.