PETALING JAYA: There is nothing legally wrong with Attorney-General (AG) Mohamed Apandi Ali leading the prosecution team in DAP leader Lim Guan Eng’s case.
However, it is not a “good practice” for him to do so, especially in high-profile cases where allegations of them being politically motivated are rife, said civil liberties lawyers.
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) Executive Director Eric Paulsen, speaking to FMT, said Apandi is both a public prosecutor and a legal adviser to the government.
“So, by leading the prosecution team, which is working towards convicting an Opposition leader, Apandi has opened up the floor for negative public perception against him as the nation’s top lawyer, and against his office.
“As we all know, the post of AG is given and can be taken away at the will of the prime minister.
“His involvement with Lim’s case is even more controversial due to his link with Umno, of which he was once a member.”
He added that the public prosecutor’s office should be free from any scandals and allegations of possible prejudices or injustices.
“This is especially so given the country’s current political climate, where public confidence in the justice system is eroding following the string of legal actions pending against the Opposition, while those from the ruling government are able to get away with abosulutely anything.
“Individuals who are affiliated to the government, like Ibrahim Ali, Jamal Yunos, Ali Tinju, among many others … all the reports against them have not led to a single prosecution.”
Lawyer Syahredzan Johan echoed the same sentiment, questioning what was so special with Lim’s case that the AG himself needed to come back down to the ground and lead the prosecution team.
He also said as Apandi was the one who decided whether or not Lim should be taken to court, he should let others handle the case.
“There isn’t a lack of senior public prosecutors who can carry out this task,” he said when contacted by FMT.
“And there needs to be some detachment between the person who decides if a person should be prosecuted, and the one carrying out the prosecution.”
Lim, who is the Penang chief minister, was charged under Sect 23 of the MACC Act for allowing an application to rezone a piece of land owned by businesswoman Phang Li Khoon’s company Magnificent Emblem, and Sect 165 of the Penal Code for buying a property below market value.
Apandi is leading the prosecution team and yesterday morning asked for the case to be transferred to the Penang High Court.
This, said Syahredzan, negated any claims of conflict of interest as Apandi has no hold over those sitting in the High Court.
“High Court judges are appointed by the Judicial Appointments Commision, and because they have security of tenure, among others, any appointment or dismissal has to go through a tribunal, not the AG.
“So, in that sense there is no conflict of interest.”