Najib ‘clearly disadvantaged’ without effective legal representation, says dissenting judge

PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Najib Razak was "clearly disadvantaged" when he had no legal representation following his lead counsel's refusal to participate in the final appeal of his SRC International case, says a dissenting judge.

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli, who gave the dissenting judgment in a 4-1 majority decision here on Friday (March 31), said that the former prime minister could not be said to have a legal representation when the counsel of his choice, Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, refused to represent him any further during the hearing of the final appeal in August, last year.

ALSO READ: Najib loses bid to review Federal Court decision

At this point, Najib, who was sitting in the accused dock, was seen nodding his head in agreement to the judge.

Justice Abdul Rahman said both sides, the prosecution and the defence, should be given opportunities to be heard by the court but during the appeal, the prosecution was heard for two full days while Najib was not heard at all.

During the final appeal last August, Hisyam had sought for an adjournment of the proceedings for three to four months as he had only taken over the matter several weeks earlier.

Najib had then discharged Messrs Shafee & Co and engaged Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (Zist) where Hisyam was appointed as the lead counsel.

ALSO READ: Najib petitions UN over his ‘unjust’ imprisonment

The five-judge panel which presided over the appeal then and chaired by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, however gave a stern 'no' to the request.

This resulted in Hisyam's application to discharge himself as he said he was unprepared to carry on with the main appeal due to time constraints.

The panel however maintained that Hisyam remained "on the record" as counsel and Hisyam refused to submit on the merits of the main appeal.

On this, Justice Abdul Rahman said the previous panel was wrong when it prevented Hisyam from discharging himself.

ALSO READ: Najib complicit with lawyers in trying to get SRC appeal adjourned, says prosecutor

He said it was unfair that the applicant was "paying the highest price" for the mistakes done by his counsel.

"The applicant’s only interest is to see his lawyer act for him in his best interest, nothing more and nothing less.

"For all the aforesaid reasons, I allow for the application," the judge added.

Najib's application for the review, however, is dismissed by the majority 4-1 decision.

Other judges on the bench who made up the majority decision were Federal Court judges Justices Vernon Lam Ong Kiat, Rhodzariah Bujang, Nordin Hassan and Court of Appeal judge Justice Abu Bakar Jais.

Najib was seeking leave to review the Federal Court's decision of Aug 23, 2022, which upheld the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision to convict and sentence him to 12 years in jail and a RM210mil fine in the RM42mil SRC International case.

On Sept 6, last year, he applied for leave to review the Federal Court’s decision, claiming a “miscarriage of justice” in his case.

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