Trial by media: What about Sodomy II?

Najib Razak’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, has obtained an interim gag order to protect his client against statements which could affect his case, and, more importantly, to stop a trial by media before the case is heard in court.

Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who was present at the Kuala Lumpur court complex on Wednesday to lend moral support to Najib, also said the former prime minister should not be shamed unless he is proven guilty.

He said Najib had been put on trial by the media, not by the court of law. “Let the court conduct the trial fairly and transparently,” he said. “We hope he is given justice.”

He also called on Muslims to uphold the principles taught in religion and laws instead of stigmatising Najib.

Many years ago, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, “Melayu mudah lupa.” It seems that these two men, Shafee and Asyraf, do not practise what they preach.

Former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was convicted of sodomy and imprisoned for the second time in 2015. Shafee then further tarnished Anwar’s reputation with a roadshow, which he and former youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin took to many parts of the country.

As a good Muslim, Asyraf should have spoken in defence of Anwar. How many trials did Anwar have to endure? The Sodomy II trial was over by February 2015, and Anwar was jailed. This was all the more startling because his earlier High Court acquittal was overturned. He was thrown into the Sungai Buloh prison to serve a five-year jail term.

The lead prosecutor was Shafee, who now helms Najib’s team of lawyers. For reasons known only to himself, Najib decided not to use the government’s public prosecutors.

While Anwar languished in the gaol, Shafee and Khairy proceeded with their roadshow. Was this an attempt to convince the Malaysians who bothered to attend of Anwar’s guilt? There were even allegations that Shafee took his roadshow to the Malaysian diaspora in London.

Anwar had already been tried; why did Shafee feel it necessary to try him again?

Several excerpts from news reports at the time were disturbing. During his first stop on Feb 17, a week after the Federal Court upheld Anwar’s conviction, Shafee managed to stream his Kelana Jaya roadshow live.

He told the crowd: “Anwar mencubit-cubit dia punya puting (Anwar pinched [Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan’s] nipples.”

Claiming that he took “no pleasure” in the deed as a young man’s life “had been wrecked”, he said he had acted because he knew that “justice had finally been done”.

But perhaps Shafee’s double standards are not unexpected. After all, he is a lawyer and is only serving his client to the best of his ability. Najib himself has been said to believe that “cash is king”.

At any rate, after having gone overboard with Anwar’s character assassination, Shafee is now showing his hypocrisy by demanding that Najib be saved from a trial by media.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily those of FMT.

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