Court of Appeal judge to hear Najib’s case?

High Court judge Sofian Abdul Razak has been moved from the criminal court to the civil court effective Aug 1. Najib Razak had claimed trial to charges before Sofian on July 4. (klbar.org.my pic)

PETALING JAYA: A Court of Appeal judge could be assigned to preside over the trial of former prime minister Najib Razak, who is charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and another count of abuse of power, a source said.

A source said there had been at least two precedents where Federal Court judges sat as trial judges in the High Court to hear high-profile cases.

In 1977, the late Raja Azlan Shah was the judge assigned to hear the case of the late Selangor menteri besar Harun Idris over corruption charges.

In 1983, the late Hashim Yeop Sani presided at the trial of Mokhtar Hashim, the then culture, youth and sports minister, who was charged with the murder of former Gemencheh assemblyman Mohamed Taha Talib.

In both cases, Harun and Mokhtar were convicted in the High Court and the rulings were affirmed by the Federal Court.

Previously, Malaysia only had a two-tier superior court system — the High Court and Federal Court.

However, following amendments to the Federal Constitution, the Court of Appeal, an intermediate tribunal between the High Court and the Federal Court, was set up in 1994.

“The constitution also allowed a Court of Appeal judge to sit in the High Court,” the source told FMT.

The source said this in response to the transfer of High Court judge Sofian Abdul Razak from the criminal court to the civil court effective Aug 1.

Najib had claimed trial to the charges before Sofian on July 4.

Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali will move to Sofian’s courtroom.

However, it is unclear if Nazlan would preside over Najib’s trial.

The source said there could also be a possibility that a senior and experienced High Court judge may be assigned to try Najib as complex legal issues could arise from the case.

The Malaysian Bar had earlier called for Sofian’s recusal from the trial as his elder brother, Mohd Soffi, held a position in Umno and the Pahang state government.

The Federal Court Chief Registrar’s Office, in a statement, had said the registration and distribution of the case were done randomly by the e-filing system.

Sofian had set Aug 8 for case management.

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