Najib’s appeal could be heard sooner rather than later, says lawyer

Former prime minister Najib Razak with his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday.

KUALA LUMPUR: A lawyer says Najib Razak’s appeal against his conviction and sentence for corruption could be heard sooner rather than later in the Court of Appeal given the nature of the case and Najib’s standing as a former prime minister.

Although no specific timeline is in place yet, KA Ramu told FMT that the trial was a public interest case involving a former leader who was still politically active.

“The appeal will be heard soon as the grounds of judgment will be made available for parties to act upon,” he added, referring to the statement by trial judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali that the written grounds would be prepared within 21 days of either party filing their notice of appeal.

Najib is Pekan MP and an Umno division chief.

He and the prosecution, which is expected to cross-appeal the sentence, have 14 days to lodge their appeals.

He was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fined RM210 million yesterday for corruption in relation to RM42 million belonging to former 1MDB unit SRC International.

However, he obtained a stay of execution for both the jail term and fine pending the outcome of his appeal.

His lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had voiced hope that the appeal would be heard in two months although ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram said it would take up to five.

Ramu said in any criminal case, the court would prepare the appeal records before a date is set for the appeal.

“As a first step, parties will file their notice of appeal within the time frame to prevent any complications.”

However, he said it appeared that the initial hurdle to a speedier appeal had been overcome as the trial judge had said the grounds would be provided in three weeks.

Usually, judges have up to eight weeks to provide the written grounds once a notice of appeal is filed.

Meanwhile, Ramu said, court staff would compile other appeal records including notes of evidence and exhibits by the prosecution and defence.

“In this case, the documents will be voluminous as it was a commercial crime,” he added.

Parties must then file a petition of appeal within 10 days of receiving the appeal records, including the judgment.

“The petition will outline where the trial judge erred in facts and law for the consideration of the appellate bench,” Ramu said.

Meanwhile, lawyer Jayaseelan Anthony said the grounds of judgment would be the focal point for the identification of omissions and misdirections on the part of the trial judge.

“Appellate courts have reversed convictions and sentences if the trial judge erred in law and misappreciated the facts of the case,” he said.