Clare Rewcastle-Brown fails to transfer criminal defamation case to KL High Court

KUALA LUMPUR: Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown has failed to transfer her criminal defamation case involving Terengganu Sultanah, Sultanah Nur Zahirah, from the Kuala Terengganu Magistrate's Court to the High Court here.

High Court judge Justice K. Muniandy dismissed her application for transfer on the grounds that it lacks merit.

The judge said the power of transfer under Section 417 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) should only be exercised only if it appeared that not doing so may result in an unfair or un-impartial trial or otherwise appears expedient in the interest of justice.

He also said that Rewcastle-Brown's apprehension to have the case tried in Terengganu as she was fearful that she may not be accorded the justice she deserves is not reasonable and exceptional as an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The judge further said that the magistrate presiding over the case is independent and unbiased and added that the magistrate has to hear the evidence advanced by the prosecution to support the charge against the accused.

He added that Rewcastle-Brown is allowed a reasonable opportunity to cross-examine all witnesses called by the prosecution and said that she is not hampered to advance submissions on facts and law before the magistrate arrives at a finding of facts in the case.

“The application by the applicant lacks merit. It is hereby dismissed,” Justice Muniandy said.

The court also said that if the case did not favour Rewcastle-Brown, she still has the right to appeal against the decision at the High Court pursuant to Section 307 (1) of the CPC.

“The applicant is subject to the law of the land where she is alleged to have committed a crime, thus the Malaysian legal system, including its criminal justice process prevails,” Justice Muniandy added.

The court then ordered for the case to remain at the Kuala Terengganu Magistrate's Court.

UK-based Rewcastle-Brown was charged in absentia back in September 2021 at the Kuala Terengganu Magistrate's Court for criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Penal Code which carries a jail term of up to two years or a fine or both, if convicted.

She was accused of criminally defaming Sultanah Nur Zahirah in a book titled ‘The Sarawak Report - The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose’.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Noor Haslinda Che Seman appeared for the prosecution while Rewcastle-Brown was represented by counsel Guok Ngek Seong.

Lawyer Siti Anis Che Ab Wahab held watching brief for Sultanah Zahirah.

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