Zahid in hospital after fall, graft trial on pause as court told he has ‘severe neck pain’

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was absent from court this morning just as the prosecution was to submit its case. — File picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was absent from court this morning just as the prosecution was to submit its case. — File picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s corruption case involving Yayasan Akalbudi funds was suspended today as the accused is currently hospitalised for a neck injury after suffering a fall.

The Umno president was absent from court this morning just as the prosecution was to submit its case.

Defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik informed High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah that Ahmad Zahid had been admitted to a private hospital on August 22 due to a fall last week.

“We have a letter dated August 23, 2021 explaining to Your Lordship the circumstances of the accused not being present.

“In the said letter, the doctor had said he sustained a fall on August 18 around 5pm and the injuries sustained as a result of the fall.

“He is not fit to attend court proceedings due to severe neck pain. He is unable to sit for a long time,” he said.

Hisyam added that Ahmad Zahid was scheduled to undergo a medical procedure at 8am today to relieve the pain.

He added that the defence team is not deliberately trying to delay the trial and is willing to proceed with the hearing if necessary.

Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran stood up and said the prosecution too can continue but would not wish to be seen as denying the accused’s rights of a fair trial.

“However, my concern is that the letter does not say whether the accused agreed to have the case proceed in his absence. 

“That is an important point to consider, My Lord, we don’t want the court to be seen as denying his right to be heard,” she said.

Citing the Criminal Procedure Code, Raja Rozela said the law requires the accused to be physically present for trial.

She expressed concern that Ahmad Zahid’s absence may become an issue if the case proceeds to the Court of Appeal in future if the trial were to continue in his absence today.

Sequerah too noted the potential of a mistrial if today’s hearing continued without Ahmad Zahid being present in court.

The High Court is scheduled to hear submissions at the end of prosecution from today and on September 6 to September 9.

In the doctor's letter, Ahmad Zahid has been admitted to Avisena Specialist Hospital in Shah Alam for treatment, under the care of a specialist named Dr Mohd Shahir Anuar.

Raja Rozela suggested the court subpoena the doctor concerned to determine the exact nature of Ahmad Zahid's injuries and recovery.

After a short break, Sequerah returned to the courtroom and said he did not wish for any more delays to the trial as it would be unfair to both the accused and the court.

“This case is 2019, it is not fair for the accused and not fair for the court to keep on postponing [by] giving dates to the accused,” he said.

With both prosecution and defence in agreement, the judge then issued a subpoena for Dr Mohd Shahir to present himself in court on August 25 at 3.30pm to find out the nature of Ahmad Zahid’s injury and prognosis.

On March 19, the prosecution closed the case after calling 99 witnesses to testify.

In this trial, Zahid ― who is a former home minister and currently the Umno president ― is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

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