KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's High Court yesterday issued a stern warning to Najib Razak over his Facebook post on former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, an upcoming witness in his graft trial.
Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah said the former premier must not make statements relating to the trial "as if the trial is in the public domain".
The court had earlier heard submissions from both parties arising from the prosecution's application for Najib to be issued a warning on the matter.
"The statements that Zeti had made (in interviews) do not justify the accused in this case responding by way of his Facebook post. What the accused stated in his post can be viewed, as a whole, as an attack to the witness.
"The court therefore issues a stern warning not to repeat the action," said Justice Sequerah.
He added that the court would take any action necessary to protect its integrity.
Najib faces 25 abuse of power and money laundering charges over RM2.28 billion (S$750 million) of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds that had been deposited in his AmBank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.
In his Facebook post on Dec 29, Najib asked Tan Sri Zeti to respond to claims that her family had received over RM100 million said to be from 1MDB funds from fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho.
Dr Zeti responded in a statement on Dec 31: "I wish to reiterate that my family and I have never received any sums of money from 1MDB. The allegations against me and my family are completely false and malicious."
Earlier yesterday in the High Court, Najib's lead counsel, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, submitted that Najib's Facebook post was in response to statements Dr Zeti made in two articles that were published online.
"She continued to attack my client" in July 2018, Mr Shafee said, a day before Najib was charged in court in relation to SRC International, a former unit of scandal-tainted state fund 1MDB.
The lawyer said the court needed to be conscious of a citizen's right to freedom of speech under Article 10 of the federal Constitution and whether the social media post was contempt of court.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib said one of the two articles which carried Dr Zeti's statements was from euromoney.com.
"It was an interview on the issue of economy. Nothing in this whole article amounts to a personal attack on Najib," he said.
The second article, from The Edge newspaper, was Dr Zeti's response to a claim Najib made in a recent interview. "She was responding to a statement made about her. She was not even listed as a witness at this point."
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK