Najib denies trying to prolong his trial

Former prime minister Najib Razak speaks in a recent interview with FMT.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Najib Razak has rejected claims that he is trying to prolong his trial on criminal charges, saying it is moving along faster than the previous high-profile cases of Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Guan Eng.

“Lim’s case was delayed nearly 30 months, and in Anwar’s case, it was delayed 66 times,” he said in an interview with FMT.

Lim was charged in 2016 with corruption over the purchase of a bungalow at below market price. The charges were dropped after the 14th general election. Anwar was convicted of sodomy in 2015 after a trial of about five years. He received a royal pardon last year on the basis that a miscarriage of justice had taken place.

Najib, who is facing charges of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and abuse of power, faulted prosecution lawyers for the delays in his trial, noting that they had asked for the postponement of some of the cases.

Referring to his lawyers’ application for a postponement to enable them to make interlocutory appeals, he attributed this to mistakes made by the prosecution.

Last month, the Federal Court rejected Najib’s appeals to get a gag order to prevent public discussion of the merits of his case and to obtain additional documents from the prosecution. It also overturned a Court of Appeal ruling that the prosecution needed to show the appointment letter of ad hoc prosecutor Sulaiman Abdullah.

The former prime minister’s critics have claimed that these appeals were a delay tactic, but Najib pointed to the Court of Appeal’s judgment as proof that he was not trying to delay his cases.

Najib also spoke of his legal troubles as a price politicians sometimes had to pay.

He said his political opponents “accused us of all sorts of things” before last year’s general election. “After they’ve won, they’ll have to press charges or people will say their accusations had no basis. Whether their evidence is solid, that is a different question.”

He said he was pushing for the live telecast of the trial proceedings or at least the release of recordings because he wanted members of the public to make their own judgment as to the fairness of the trial.

He alleged that certain news outlets were being used for his opponents’ benefit and one could not get an accurate picture if one relied on their reports of the trial.

“They will resort to spinning,” he said.

Najib also claimed the cases against him and others associated with his administration had done nothing to reduce support for Barisan Nasional (BN).

In fact, he spoke of a resurgence of support. “At the grassroots level, it is obvious the people support BN more than Pakatan Harapan today,” he said.

He hit out at defectors from Umno, saying reports from the ground indicated that these elected representatives were being shunned by their constituents and had lost their political base.