PETALING JAYA: Lawyers today agreed that former prime minister Najib Razak has crossed the line in making public remarks on the court cases facing Umno counsel Mohd Hafarizam Harun and public relations practitioner Paul Stadlen.
Lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said Najib was doing what he was good at by “playing to the gallery” and conducting a trial by media.
“He risks facing a contempt charge for doing that.
“Najib should know by now the court rules after attending his own proceedings in numerous criminal cases,” he told FMT.
Rafique said the charges against Hafarizam were fresh and the court was still awaiting documents from the prosecution.
“Najib is trying to paint a picture of political persecution without respecting the rule of law. Evidence, if any, must be elicited during the trial, not through the media.”
He said Najib risks being admonished, fined or jailed if the prosecution proceeds with the contempt proceedings.
Another lawyer, Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar, said Najib should allow the courts to decide whether the prosecution had sufficient evidence against Hafarizam and Stadlen.
“The court will make a ruling whether the prosecution has proven the case beyond reasonable doubt after presenting their testimonies through witnesses and documentary evidence,” he said.
Syed Iskandar agreed with Rafique in saying Najib was attempting to win the battle in the court of public opinion with the hope of influencing the court.
Lawyer Salim Bashir said Najib could speak on the matter because there was no gag order from the court but should refrain from doing so.
“Ideally, he should not discuss the cases as he may be a potential witness,” he said.
Salim said Najib was not pre-judging the issue and influencing the public because there is no jury trial in Malaysia.
Najib had come to the defence of the duo, who were charged with money laundering charges amounting to RM15 million.
Najib said the payments made by Hafarizam to Stadlen were above board and came from “legitimate sources”.
He also said money for Stadlen was handed over to Hafarizam to be placed in a trust account so that the lawyer would arrange for payments to be made to Stadlen over the course of several years.
Earlier this week, Hafarizam claimed trial at the Sessions Court to two charges under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001. Stadlen, who was Najib’s former media adviser, was charged in absentia for the same offence.