Court refuses Najib’s bid to muzzle discussion of case

Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali says the order, if allowed, would also violate freedom of speech and the press. (File pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has set aside an interim gag order issued to stop the public from discussing all criminal charges framed against Najib Razak.

Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said the former prime minister would not be prejudiced if the restraining order was lifted.

“Any further extension of such order can only be given in exceptional cases,” he said, adding that the defamation law could be utilised by the accused to protect his interests.

The judge said contempt proceedings could also be relied on to punish those who usurped the function of the court in administering justice.

He said the order, if allowed, would also violate freedom of speech and the press.

Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah informed the court that he had instructions to file a notice of appeal.

“The notice will be filed as early as Monday,” he said.

On July 4, judge Mohd Sofian Abd Razak restrained any public discussion pending a case management on Aug 8.

However, Sofian was transferred to a civil court effective Aug 1 and Nazlan took over from his predecessor.

Najib’s lawyer had filed an application to convert the interim order to a permanent injunction pending the outcome of the ex-prime minister’s trial.

Najib faces three counts of criminal breach of trust and abuse of power. If convicted, he faces a 20-year jail term and a fine for each of the charges.

On Wednesday, Najib also claimed trial to three charges of money laundering in the transfer of RM42 million from former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International into his bank account.

If convicted under Section 4 (1) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act, he could face a maximum of 15 years in jail and a fine.

All the charges relate to SRC International, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary of 1MDB but was later placed under the Minister of Finance Inc.

Nazlan set 33 days from Feb 12 next year for the trial, and gave the prosecution until March 29 to present its case. The court also set Oct 4 for case management.