Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who is now presiding over the criminal cases of former PM Najib Razak after replacing judge Mohd Sofian Abd Razak, has dismissed Najib's bid for a gag order
The new High Court judge, in dismissing Najib's application for a gag order on the media against discussing the merits of his criminal cases, said he found the motion for a gag order "unsustainable" and if granted it would violate freedom of speech.
Justice Mohd Nazlan said that the court found there was nothing prejudicial against Najib as the court did not have a jury system and the decision was made by the judge.
According to Justice Mohd Nazlan, the existing law of contempt and defamation already provide available and ready measures to deal with any such substantial risk of prejudice or interference with the criminal justice system.
"The law of contempt can only be granted in the most exceptional of cases, where the substantial risk of prejudice is additionally especially imminent and serious.
"In light of the aforesaid key considerations, I find the motion unsustainable. If granted, it would represent a major incursion into the constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution," he said.
The previous judge, Mohd Sofian, who is the younger brother of UMNO Pahang state executive council member Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak, had allowed an interim gag order sought by Najib, barring digital media and newspaper from discussing the merits of the case
When it was discovered that judge Mohd Sofian is the UMNO Pahang strongman's brother, the Malaysian Bar had called for the judge to recuse himself.
However, after judge Mohd Sofian failed to recuse himself, he was transferred out by the orders of the Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim.
Replacing him, Justice Mohd Nazlan was put in to preside over Najib's cases.
Najib's defence lawyer Shafee Abdullah, however, will be filing a notice of appeal against the High Court's dismissal on Monday
Shafee had argued that the media furore surrounding Najib's alleged criminal wrongdoing and the resulting public backlash had presupposed his client's guilt.
"It is not a dramatic observation to say that the public sentiment against the applicant is prejudiced to such an extent that nothing short of a conviction upon all charges would qualify as justice in the eyes of the public," he was quoted as saying by NST Online.
Shafee accused Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Finance minister Lim Guan Eng, and Damansara MP Tony Pua of supporting "the public's call for blood".
Meanwhile, the High Court judge has set the trial dates for 12 February to 28 February and 4 March to 29 March 29 next year
Najib is facing a total of seven charges, with three being criminal breaches of trust, three counts of money laundering and one count of abuse of power.
All of the seven charges are in relation to RM42 million which was deposited into his personal accounts from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.
Speaking of charges, Najib's daughter claims the only thing her father is guilty of is that he tried "to do his best for his country":