KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has applied to the High Court to suspend his trial before the prosecution starts to cross-examine him and until a related appellate court decision on his bid for statements 11 witnesses gave to his investigators.
Ahmad Zahid stressed, however, that he was not seeking to delay the trial, arguing that the statements recorded from the 11 witnesses would be necessary for him to give a “complete defence” for himself in this trial.
In the application filed on June 23, Ahmad Zahid sought for the High Court to stay his trial until the Court of Appeal decides on his appeal for the 11 witnesses’ statements recorded by investigators.
In an affidavit to support his application, Ahmad Zahid provided a chronology of events leading to its submission, including how he was on January 24 ordered by the High Court to enter his defence of all 47 charges in this trial after 99 prosecution witnesses had testified.
Noting that the prosecution had previously offered him 37 witnesses to be called to testify in his defence, Ahmad Zahid said his lawyers had on February 18 applied for the statements given by 18 of these witnesses to investigators to prepare his defence.
But the High Court on May 9 rejected his bid for the witnesses’ statements and his lawyers had on May 10 filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal, with the appeal now scheduled for case management today.
Ahmad Zahid said the statements previously given by these 11 witnesses to investigators will have a critical impact on his defence, adding that this is because there would be corroboration between their testimony and his testimony in court.
Wishing to provide further explanation on 14 of his criminal breach of trust and corruption charges, Ahmad Zahid argued that his right to fair trial would be affected if he is not provided with these 11 witnesses’ statements to investigators.
“Besides that, I also state that I wish to provide a complete defence in my examination-in-chief in this court before I am cross-examined.
“I am also advised that this application is important so that the process of justice can be upheld. This application is not intended to delay the trial of my case because I have already given my testimony at the stage of examination-in-chief at this court,” he said.
Defence witnesses in court such as Ahmad Zahid, typically go through three stages, which is the examination-in-chief where they can testify and be asked questions by their own lawyers to further explain their evidence, while the cross-examination stage is when the prosecution would question these witnesses, and the re-examination stage is when the defence lawyers would ask questions to enable the witnesses to clarify their testimony.
Ahmad Zahid had been testifying since April 13, with today being the seventh day of his testimony as a defence witness at the examination-in-chief stage.
Arguing that he cannot testify in stages as it would allegedly prejudice and affect his defence, Ahmad Zahid said this application to stay the trial is meant to ensure he has a fair trial in preparing his defence.
“Therefore, I stress and state that it is appropriate and fair for me to obtain the deferment of trial temporarily while waiting for the decision by the Court of Appeal to obtain a copy of the witnesses’ statements before I am ordered by the court to be cross-examined,” he said.
At a case management this morning for Ahmad Zahid’s stay of application, the prosecution this morning said it would object to the application.
High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah then fixed July 7 as the hearing date for the application.
The trial then continued today, as Ahmad Zahid continued to testify as the first defence witness by reading from his written witness statement and answering questions from his lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal to provide further explanations.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is a former deputy prime minister and former home minister― faces 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.