Muhammad Shafee ordered to attend committal proceedings

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 25): Senior lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah was ordered by the High Court today to attend the next committal proceeding initiated by Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas against him.

The order was made by High Court Judge Datuk Mohd Firuz Jaffril after Shafee did not make his appearance at the High Court today.

Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bolhassan (pictured), who acted for the AG, said Shafee should be present in every court proceedings as this is a committal proceeding.

However, the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) was only informed by Shafee's lawyers this morning that he is away in Sydney, Shamsul added.

Meanwhile, counsel David Matthew, who appeared on behalf of Shafee, requested for an extension of time to file an application to set aside the leave (permission) which was granted by the High Court on March 1 to initiate committal proceedings against Shafee based on the reason that he was unwell.

Matthew submitted two medical certificates issued by two separate hospitals to the High Court today, asking for three weeks to file the application.

He also requested the High Court to dispose of the application first before fixing any hearing date.

Mohd Firuz said he appreciates Matthew's appearance in the High Court today even though the latter is still on medical leave.

However, he is of the view that this matter should be expedited.

Mohd Firuz then fixed May 23 to hear the application by Shafee and directed Shafee to attend the court hearing on that day, after he rejected Matthew's application to exempt Shafee's attendance.

Mohd Firuz stressed that he did not want to send any wrong message to the public that certain people can be exempted from attending court proceedings.

Besides this, the court also requested counsel Karen Cheah, who appeared as a watching brief for the Malaysian Bar, to address the court about Bar's position regarding this committal proceedings.

Thomas made an ex-parte application to the High Court in February to initiate committal proceedings against Shafee over his media statement in relation to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's case. Shafee was named as the sole defendant.

In the application, Thomas said Shafee is an advocate and solicitor representing Najib, who has been charged in the High Court with several offences related to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal.

On Feb 7, 2019, after the court proceedings involving Najib in the High Court, Shafee was interviewed by several journalists outside the courtroom, and the interview was recorded by a videographer from Kinitv.com and telecasted on KiniTV, which is accessible via https://m.kinitv.com/video/70311O8.

Thomas claimed that Shafee knew or ought to have known that the offensive statement was contemptuous to the judge and would undermine the administration of justice and public confidence in the judicial system in Malaysia.

He said Shafee also knew or ought to have known that the offensive statement would clearly place the trial judge in an embarrassing situation and create a state of uncertainty about the fair and just determination of the criminal case.

He claimed that the words were uttered deliberately and with intent by Shafee in an attempt to pressure and influence the decision in that criminal case.

Thomas contended that the offensive statement, made right after the proceedings involving the accused, had only one meaning and was intended to bring disrepute to the courts and judges, and that it would undermine the administration of justice and public confidence in the judicial system in Malaysia.

He said considering the words in their entirety, the public would reasonably perceive that, if the accused were to be convicted, the trial judge was not straight, the judge was influenced, the witnesses were coached and the evidence was fabricated.

He also said the words would not only adversely affect the image and prestige of the courts and judges in Malaysia, but place the trial judge in an embarrassing situation, as the words would create a state of uncertainty about the fair and just determination of the case.