KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak on Tuesday (Aug 23) failed to recuse Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat from hearing his final appeal against a graft conviction and a jail sentence, more than a week after the proceedings began.
The five-member bench led by Tun Tengku Maimun rejected the recusal application after deliberation.
The application was based on Facebook posts made by the judge’s husband Zamani Ibrahim in May 2018, in which he is said to have demonstrated negative views of Najib’s leadership and concluded that Najib had siphoned funds from 1MDB into his personal bank account.
Najib’s team had alleged that the judge’s views may have been influenced by her husband’s sentiments and coloured by bias.
Additionally, his defence team had reiterated that they will not be making any fresh written or oral submissions on Tuesday, meaning that the final appeal could have concluded on the same day if not for the recusal application.
Mr Hisyam, however, contended that the recusal application was not a "delaying tactic" from the defence.
The defence team also briefly saw the return of Shafee Abdullah as Najib’s lawyer on Tuesday, less than a month after he was discharged and replaced by Mr Hisyam.
Mr Shafee was scheduled to appear alongside Mr Hisyam as defence counsel in arguing the recusal application, but his request for an adjournment until Wednesday to help him “gather his thoughts” was rejected by the court. Shafee was in court for barely 30 minutes before he left for another engagement.
Before he left he told the court he would return on Wednesday to argue the matter. But Justice Tengku Maimun said there would be “no need” for anyone to be present at court on Wednesday if the hearing is concluded on Tuesday.
Mr Hisyam himself had sought an adjournment of the hearing twice last week because he had just been appointed, contending that he was not prepared to argue the appeal.
The defence had already attempted to raise a conflict of interest motion against the High Court judge who convicted Najib, as well as tried twice to adjourn proceedings citing lack of the preparedness of Najib's new lawyers, who were just hired last month.
Najib arrived at the country's top court on Tuesday morning for the final leg of his appeal to set aside his corruption conviction and 12-year jail sentence over a case linked to the 1MDB financial scandal.
About a hundred of his supporters had gathered outside the court with some shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) and “Justice for Najib”, Reuters reported.
Najib, 69, was found guilty in July 2020 of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power, and money laundering for illegally receiving about US$10 million (S$14 million) from SRC International, a former unit of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Najib, who pleaded not guilty, was sentenced to 12 years' jail and a RM210 million (S$65 million) fine.