The Kuala Lumpur High Court today allowed the temporary return of Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's passport for him to apply for a diplomatic passport to carry out his official duties.
However, judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah rejected the deputy prime minister's application to have his passport permanently returned to enable him to perform his duties.
"This is a request by the prosecution to which I agree, that the accused (Zahid) is entitled to have his passport returned to him upon application for the purposes of applying for a diplomatic passport, after which the passport ought to be returned to the court.
"The application of the applicant to have his passport permanently released is dismissed," said the judge.
On Jan 26, Zahid filed an application to have his passport permanently returned to him, so that he could carry out his official duties as deputy prime minister.
The passport was surrendered to the court as an additional bail condition after he was charged with 47 counts of corruption, criminal breach of trust and money laundering involving Yayasan Akalbudi funds, the proceedings of which are now at the defence stage.
Sequerah, in his decision, said Article 8 of the Federal Constitution stipulates that all persons are equal before the law.
"Before the law, there shall be no privilege, person or class above the law," he said.
The judge said the court was cognisant of the fact that as deputy prime minister, Zahid had official duties to perform, but said these duties must not clash with his duty to go to court, as the court also had its own functions to perform.
Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Abdul Malik Ayob said the prosecution had no objection to Zahid’s application for his passport to be permanently returned to him.
However, he said after the issuance of his diplomatic passport, Zahid would have to return his personal passport to the court.
In an affidavit in support of the application, Zahid, 70, said he needed the passport for his application to obtain a diplomatic passport from the immigration department, for official business within and outside of the country.
"It is appropriate for the court to consider that the approval of the application will bring good and continuity to the administration of Malaysia, which is the responsibility of every citizen in this country," he said in the affidavit.
Zahid’s defence proceedings have been fixed to resume on April 10. The defence has called six witnesses, including Zahid himself, who is represented by Hisyam Teh Poh Teik.