Malaysia's court issues stern warning to ex-PM Najib over post on trial witness

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – A Malaysian High Court on Thursday (Jan 7) issued a stern warning to former prime minister Najib Razak over his Facebook post on former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah, in his decision, said the Pahang MP must not make statements relating to the trial “as if the trial is in the public domain”.

The court had earlier heard submissions from both parties arising from the prosecution’s application for Najib to be issued a warning on the matter.

“The statements that Zeti had made (in interviews) do not justify the accused in this case responding by way of his Facebook post.

“What the accused stated in his post can be viewed as a whole, as an attack to the witness.

“The court therefore issues a stern warning not to repeat the action,” said Justice Sequerah.

He added that the court would take any action necessary to protect the integrity of the court.

Najib, 67, faces 25 charges for abuse of power and money laundering over funds of 1Malaysia Development Berhad totalling RM2.28 billion (S$750 million) that was deposited into his AmBank accounts between Feb 2011 and Dec 2014.

In his Facebook post on Dec 29, Najib asked Tan Sri Zeti to respond to allegations that her family received more than RM100 million said to be from 1MDB funds from fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho.

Ms Zeti responded in a statement on Dec 31: “I wish to reiterate that my family and I have never received any sums of money from 1MDB. The allegations against me and my family are completely false and malicious.”

Earlier in the High Court on Thursday, Najib’s lead counsel, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, submitted that Najib’s Facebook post was a response to Dr Zeti’s statements made in two articles that were published online.

“She continued to attack my client” in July 2018, Mr Shafee said, a day before Najib was charged in court related to SRC International, a former unit of scandal-tainted state fund 1MDB.

Mr Shafee said Dr Zeti’s statements were recorded because she was a part of the 1MDB special task force which investigated the scandal involving the sovereign wealth fund.

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The lawyer said the court needed to be conscious of a citizens’ right to freedom of speech under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and whether the social media post was a contempt of court.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib responded that one of the two articles which carried Dr Zeti’s statements was from

“It was an interview on the issue of economy. Nothing in this whole article amounts to a personal attack on Najib,” he said.

The second article from The Edge newspaper was Dr Zeti’s response to a claim Najib made in a recent interview.

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“She was responding to a statement made about her. She was not even listed as a witness at this point.

“This is a clear case of contempt. We move the court to give a warning so this does not happen again,” he added.

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