Sunday, June 20, 2021

Trial judge was not biased, prosecution says in Najib’s SRC appeal

Ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram denies any miscarriage of justice in the former PM's SRC International trial.

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Najib Razak was not put at a disadvantage in his SRC International trial when Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali provided only key points in ordering the former prime minister to enter his defence, the Court of Appeal was told today.

Ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram said that under the law, a trial judge is not required to give a reason in his oral ruling when he finds the prosecution has established a prima case and orders the accused to enter their defence.

“The contention that the appellant (Najib) has been prejudiced for not being able to put up his defence properly or to submit on those missing reasons was without basis.

“It is submitted that a miscarriage of justice had not occurred since all the rules of procedure and evidence were followed in this trial,” he said.

Sithambaram submitted this before a three-member bench led by judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil in the hearing of Najib’s appeal against his conviction and jail sentence for the misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International funds.

The other two judges on the bench were Has Zanah Mehat and Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera.

“The task of the defence was to respond to the entire prosecution’s case and not to rebut the prima facie findings of the trial judge,” Sithambaram said.

He added that calling for the defence of the accused based on an oral ruling was not a judgment.

“There is no such thing as two judgments, only one when an accused is either acquitted or convicted of a criminal charge,” he said, adding that the defence’s position that the accused was denied a fair trial was a desperate argument.

Sithambaram said if the argument of the defence was accepted, no trial judge in the future would give oral or written reasons to call for the defence of accused persons.

“In our case, the trial judge gave key points to order Najib to enter his defence for all the charges, although he was not required to. It was a bonus for the defence to get some point for Najib to enter defence but yet they complain,” Sithambaram said adding that as a lawyer, he would have been happy to get some inkling of why his client was asked to enter his defence.

He also said that the claim by the defence that Nazlan was biased in the trial was “totally unwarranted”.

“The summation of defence lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, both inside and outside court, is that the judge was biased in handling the defence case. Meaning that the trial judge was biased in favour of the prosecution.

“This is a very serious allegation. I am in support of the judgment demonstrating that those accusations against the judge are unwarranted from the evidence adduced. Totally unwarranted. There is no basis to say the judge was (acting as) a ‘second prosecutor’ or hopelessly incompetent or demonstrated incompetence.

“This summation (by the prosecution today) is made to save the integrity of the grounds of judgment, and in a wider context to ensure that the due administration of justice is not in any way tainted. This is an important case followed by the public, and people reading (news covering the trial) may think the judge was biased and incompetent without basis.

“The appellant or defence is attacking the judge. It is important for the prosecution to make this submission as the judge is unable to defend himself against the allegations hurled against him,” he added.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court on July 28 last year sentenced Najib to 12 years’ jail and fined him RM210 million after finding him guilty on seven charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of position involving RM42 million in SRC International funds.

The hearing of the appeal continues.

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