Friday, March 5, 2021

Court warns Najib against social media attacks on Zeti

Judge sees no necessity to impose a gag order but says the court will take any action needed to protect its integrity.

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The High Court in Kuala Lumpur today issued a stern warning to former prime minister Najib Razak to stop attacking former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz on his Facebook.

Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah while there was no necessity to impose a gag order on Najib, who is Pekan MP, he must not make statements relating to the 1MDB trial as if the trial is in the public domain.

“The court therefore issues a stern warning to the accused not to repeat the action. The court will take any action necessary to protect its integrity,” he said.

The court made the ruling after the prosecution urged it to issue a strict warning to Najib for attacking Zeti, who is a witness in the 1MDB case, on his Facebook.

Senior deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram brought up the matter on Tuesday following an online comment made by Najib on Dec 29 regarding Zeti who allegedly received money from 1MDB.

Sequerah said the statements Zeti had made in her interviews did not justify Najib’s response on Facebook.

“What the accused stated in his post can be viewed, as a whole, as an attack on the witness,” the judge added.

Earlier, Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah submitted that Najib’s Facebook post was a response to Zeti’s statements made in two articles that were published online.

“One of the interviews, namely the one with news portal, was published on July 3, 2018, in which she continued to attack my client one day before he was charged over SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds (July 4).

“Zeti’s statements (during the investigation of both SRC International and 1MDB case) were recorded because she was a part of the 1MDB special task force which investigated the scandal involving the sovereign wealth fund.

“She knew she was a potential witness. My client wouldn’t know but she (Zeti) would know,” said Shafee.

Wrapping up his submissions, Shafee said the court needed to be conscious of citizens’ right to freedom of speech under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and whether this was contempt of court.

Meanwhile, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib argued that another article which carried Zeti’s interview was, which focused on economic issues.

“Nothing in this whole article amounts to a personal attack on Najib, and the second article published on was Zeti’s response to a claim by Najib made in a recent interview.

“Zeti was responding to a statement made about her. She was not even listed as a witness at the material time. This is a clear case of contempt. We move the court to give a warning so this does not happen again,” he added.

Najib, in his Facebook post, has urged Zeti to respond to a blog post claiming that her family had received RM100 million from fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, which included 1MDB funds.

Najib, 67, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The trial continues on Feb 8.

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