KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Hundreds of Malaysian lawyers staged a protest on Friday to condemn the anti-corruption agency’s unprecedented investigation into a senior judge who convicted former prime minister Najib Razak, calling her threat to judicial independence.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission launched an investigation into Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali in April, following allegations of an unexplained sum of more than one million ringgits ($227,000) in his bank account. .
Nazlan was the High Court judge who sentenced Najib to 12 years in prison in July 2020 for corruption, then was promoted to the Court of Appeal. Najib is appealing the case to the highest court in the land after losing an earlier appeal.
The Bar Council, which organized Friday’s rally, condemned the anti-corruption agency for publicly announcing its investigation and appointing Nazlan. He said the move did not follow constitutional procedures and could undermine confidence in judicial integrity.
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“We believe that this particular and unprecedented manner of releasing the name of a sitting judge is in fact an intimidation against the judiciary,” said bar president Karen Cheah. She said the Bar Council wants the government to preserve and maintain judicial independence “so that people can have confidence in our justice system.”
The agency submitted its findings to the attorney general’s office, which said last month it was still studying the report. Nazlan and the judiciary had denied the “false, baseless and malicious” allegation which they said was aimed at tarnishing his credibility and interfering with the powers of the judiciary.
The agency’s public disclosure of its investigation without any details of the findings raises questions about its motive as Najib makes the final appeal against his conviction, said lawmaker and lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah, who joined the rally.
He said the Bar Council has called for legislative reforms to make the anti-corruption agency accountable to parliament, instead of reporting directly to the prime minister.
Najib is also facing several other corruption lawsuits related to the looting of multi-billion dollars from the public investment fund 1MDB following the ousting of his ruling party in the 2018 general election. He still remains influential and his Malaysian party returned to power amid political maneuverings that saw lawmakers change allegiance.
The police prohibited the lawyers, who gathered in a field, from marching towards the nearby Parliament. The rally dispersed peacefully after a Deputy Minister came to the field to receive a memorandum from the Bar Council.
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