Court throws out Shafee’s defamation suit against Bar, lawyers

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal today dismissed the appeal of lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah who filed a defamation suit against the Malaysian Bar to discuss his conduct over Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy 2 case.

A three-man bench chaired by David Wong Dak Wah said they found no grounds to disturb the findings of the trial judge two years ago.

“We find no merit as the High Court judge meticulously dealt with the issues, especially on the defence of justification,” he said.

Also on the bench were justices Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid and Ahmadi Asnawi.

On May 26, 2016, justice Hanipah Farikullah threw out the suit after finding that Shafee had failed to prove his claim against the defendants.

Hanipah held that the first and second defendants – senior lawyer Tommy Thomas and former Court of Appeal judge VC George – succeeded in proving their defence on the balance of probability, and that there was no malice in the publication.

Shafee had named Thomas, who is now the attorney-general, George, the Bar and former Bar president Christopher Leong as defendants.

He claimed that on Feb 28, 2015, Thomas had published and submitted a motion for discussion by the Bar at its annual general meeting (AGM) on March 14 which was seconded by George.

The motion concerned Shafee’s conduct as the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) after he took part in a forum titled “Fight the prejudices against the judiciary” held in Kelana Jaya on Feb 17 that year.

Shafee said the Bar Council and Leong on March 9 had published the motion on the website of the Malaysian Bar, titled, “Agenda and Motions for the 69th AGM of the Malaysian Bar”.

Among others, the motion expressed concern over the behaviour of Shafee as ad-hoc DPP, mentioning that he had staged roadshows relating to Anwar’s sodomy case.

The two said from the time the Federal Court convicted Anwar, Shafee had behaved in a repugnant and obnoxious manner, which brought the legal profession into disrepute.

In their motion submitted at the AGM, the two senior lawyers also urged the incoming council for the 2015-2016 term to lodge a report against Shafee with the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board.

On Feb 10, 2015, the Federal Court affirmed Anwar’s conviction of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan and sentenced him to five years in jail.

Shafee, who was given a licence, led the prosecution to obtain the conviction.

He claimed the defendants had maliciously defamed him to destroy his reputation and legal career following the release of the motion.

In his statement of claim, Shafee also sought a declaration that the motion was done in bad faith to embarrass him and that the AGM was not a proper forum to hear the motion.

The bench in its judgment today said Shafee had acted out of line as an officer of the court in his capacity as ad-hoc DPP.

Wong said Shafee knew he was attending a political event and had readily taken part in attacking Anwar’s reputation.

Wong also said there was no necessity for Shafee to defend the Federal Court ruling on Anwar’s allegation that the conviction was a political conspiracy.

“When the evidence is evaluated wholly, the appellant (Shafee) attended the event to tarnish Anwar’s reputation.”

He also said it was wrong for Shafee, as an officer of the court, to participate in a road show.

“He should not have allowed himself to be part of the agenda of a political party,” he said, adding that it was improper to condemn Anwar who was not there to defend himself.

Wong also said it was wrong of Shafee to discuss the in-camera evidence of Anwar’s sodomy trial at a public event.

“There was no application to set aside the order before any court,” he said, adding that Shafee should not have discussed that portion of evidence in public.

To do so, Wong said, would set a precedent for a lawyer or DPP to make such in-camera evidence public.

“We agree with Thomas and George that it would be horrendous if Shafee’s stand is correct in bringing the defamation suit,” he added.

Thomas was represented by Ambiga Sreenevasan, while George was represented by Porres Royan.

Lambert Rasa-Ratnam and Andrew Chiew appeared for the Bar.

Shafee later told reporters he would file an appeal in the Federal Court.