PUTRAJAYA, Aug 23 — Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah made a surprise appearance at the Federal Court today for Datuk Seri Najib Razak's final appeal hearing over his conviction of misappropriating funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd.
However, the lawyer who was recently discharged by Najib, left immediately after his request for an adjournment of “24 hours” to prepare Najib's bid to recuse Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat was disallowed.
Najib's lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik had earlier informed the five-judge panel led by Tengku Maimun that Shafee would be assisting the defence in Najib's eleventh-hour bid to recuse the chief justice from presiding over the appeal hearing.
Hisyam also asked for a short adjournment until Shafee arrived in court, but was dismissed by Tengku Maimun who ordered the former to present his arguments first.
Shafee entered the courtroom some two minutes later and immediately addressed the Bench.
He said the judges should address the recusal first to “deliver a message on impartiality” and that he had presented himself today to aid the court in reaching a conclusion.
He also told the court that neither he nor the rest of Najib’s defence were conspiring to delay the appeal hearing.
But Tengku Maimun told Shafee that the court did not wish to waste any more time.
“Let's go to the merit of the application. We are only interested in dealing with the application,” she said.
Shafee again asked for an adjournment to “gather my thoughts” and submit the recusal application properly, saying he did not have the necessary documents to do so today.
Tengku Maimun denied this request and ordered Hisyam to continue giving his reasons why she should recuse herself.
“We find no reason to adjourn this matter, so Tuan Haji please proceed,” she said, the latter referring to Hisyam.
Shafee was observed leaving the courthouse soon after.
Back in the courtroom, ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram objected to Najib’s recusal application, saying the motion was mala fide (made in bad faith) and a deliberate attempt to scuttle the ongoing appeal hearing.
Najib filed an application to recuse Tengku Maimun from hearing the appeal this morning.
He claimed that her husband, Datuk Zamani Ibrahim, had expressed “negative sentiments” that were prejudiced against him in a 2018 Facebook post after the 14th general election and that the latter’s views could influence the decision made by the country’s number one judge in his final SRC International appeal.
The Court of Appeal had on December 8, 2021 upheld the High Court’s July 2020 verdict and sentence of 12 years in prison and a fine of RM210 million meted against Najib.
Najib had been found guilty of one count of abuse of power, three counts of criminal breach of trust, and three counts of money laundering.
A hearing in the country’s supreme court has been scheduled to take place over nine days, starting August 15 until August 19 and will resume today until August 26.