Scuffles break out as Najib's supporters descend on court

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak (centre) is surrounded as he leaves the court complex after posting bail in Kuala Lumpur, on July 4, 2018.
Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak (centre) is surrounded as he leaves the court complex after posting bail in Kuala Lumpur, on July 4, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

Supporters of former Umno president Najib Razak descended on Kuala Lumpur's court complex to decry what they claim was political persecution of the former premier.

The crowd outside the court turned chaotic at times as dozens of supporters jostled with photographers and journalists trying to get close to him. Some reporters were injured in scuffles that broke out.

Najib's backers shouted his name. The situation resembled scenes involving supporters of former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim when he was charged with sodomy in 1998 and 2010 - actions Datuk Seri Anwar, whom the King has pardoned, said were politically motivated.

This time, the tables were turned.

Among those present yesterday were Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor, Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob and women's wing chief Noraini Ahmad. Many of the women wore red and pink tudung and dresses - the colours of Umno's women's and young women's wings.

Umno MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said Najib had contributed to the country, and decried the public as being "stupid" for "making sweeping statements, baseless accusations, making a public trial, and judging him as guilty before he is tried", adding: "Give him a fair trial."

When Najib arrived at the court complex, the crowd sang loudly in Malay: "Allah save Najib." Others wore T-shirts and held placards saying #Solidariti and #FreeNajib.

Umno MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said Najib had contributed to the country, and decried the public as being "stupid" for "making sweeping statements, baseless accusations, making a public trial, and judging him as guilty before he is tried", adding: "Give him a fair trial."

At the same time, many of the placards Najib's supporters held outside the complex were written in Chinese and English. Najib and his lawyer Shafiee Abdullah later spoke to the media in English.

The supporters stopped singing and cheering only when a senior policeman told them: "This is not karaoke. This is a court."

Later, as Attorney-General Tommy Thomas was set to speak to reporters in the court's lobby, Najib's supporters shouted him down with chants of "Bahasa Malaysia" and "Malay, Malay" to force him to speak in the national language. There were also shouts of "Hidup Melayu" (long live Malays).

Mr Thomas moved to another area to speak to the media.


Gag order prohibits public discussion

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was granted an interim gag order by the court to prevent public discussions on the case before the trial.

Najib's lawyer Shafee Abdullah told the court: "People have been making statements as if Najib is already found guilty. I request for the court to issue a limited order that there should not be a discussion on the merits of the case.

 
 
 
 
 

"He has the right to a fair trial."

Asked by reporters later, Tan Sri Shafee explained what the gag order meant.

It will remain in place until Aug 8, when the matter is scheduled for case management. Najib's trial is set to take place next year, from Feb 18 to 28, March 4 to 8, and 11 to 15.

"The gag order is basically for media not to print," Mr Shafee said.

"Doesn't matter who spoke about it, it can be the chairman of (anti-graft agency) MACC, it can be the commissioner of MACC, could be the Minister of Finance.

"It could be Najib himself, if he keeps on saying he is in-nocent because of this, because of that. He too is prohibited, so let the court decide," he told reporters.

He said anyone breaching the gag order would have committed contempt of court.

Asked about the issue, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said: "We were taken by surprise. What is the point of issuing a gag order when the whole world would talk about it?"

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'Scuffles break out as Najib's supporters descend on court'. Print Edition | Subscribe