Bar Chief To Face Zaid In Court Over Conduct During Najib S Trial
Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah has denied the demands of veteran lawyer Zaid Ibrahim and his two partners to issue a full and unequivocal retraction and apology.
This comes after a letter of demand was issued to Cheah over the Bar’s media statement regarding the lawyers’ conduct during former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s corruption case at the Federal Court.
Cheah said she has appointed lawyers Andrew Chiew and N Nahendran who will accept the service of process if Zaid (above) and his partners proceed with the legal suit.
“We vehemently deny all the allegations raised by them and stand by the press statement issued (by the Bar).
“We are ready to face them in court,” Cheah told reporters after the Malaysian Bar Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony in Kuala Lumpur today.
She said the media statement concerned was a matter of public interest, the administration of justice, and the standards of the legal profession.
Malaysian Bar president Karen CheahShe added that her lawyers responded to the letter of demand from Zaid and his two partners at 3.31pm today via email.
Zaid, as well as lawyers Liew Teck Huat and Rueben Mathiavaranam, claimed that the Malaysian Bar’s press release was a “grave and serious libel”, and that they would commence legal action against Cheah if there is no retraction and apology by today (Sept 2).
They claimed the Aug 19 media statement “falsely and maliciously” contained statements regarding their conduct during the Federal Court hearing.
The lawyers stated that the press release contained several paragraphs that showed a “reckless disregard as to whether the imputations complained of (were) true”.
Abuse of country’s judicial process
In her media statement, Cheah described the lawyers’ conduct as amounting to an abuse of the country’s judicial process, had brought the system into disrepute, and the lawyers involved should face disciplinary action.
She said while Najib is entitled to discharge his lawyers and appoint new ones, doing so also means taking the risk that the court may not allow a postponement.
The new legal team that takes over, she added, are not automatically entitled to such postponements either.
Lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik (left) and former prime minister Najib Abdul RazakCheah said regarding Najib’s lawyers, the rules of legal practice stipulate that lawyers shall not accept any case unless they are reasonably certain of being able to appear and represent the client on the hearing dates fixed by the court.
She said the lawyers must also make every effort to be ready for trial on those dates, per Rules 6(a) and 24(a) of the Legal Profession Act (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978.
In late July, Najib discharged the team led by Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as his counsel and appointed lawyers from the firm Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners, as well as from a law firm headed by counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik.
Meanwhile, on Aug 30, Hisyam also hinted at a defamation civil action against Cheah over the same media statement.
However, Cheah said no letter of demand has been received from Hisyam so far.
She added that the Bar is studying recordings of statements and speeches made by lawyers on high-profile court cases, such as Zaid’s and Shafee’s speeches at last Saturday’s Umno special briefing.
This is to identify if there were any breaches of law or rules governing the legal profession, she said.
Najib is currently serving a 12-year jail term, following the apex court last Tuesday (Aug 23) dismissing his appeal to quash his conviction and sentencing in the SRC case. - Mkini
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