Najib seeks to remove top Malaysian judge from corruption appeal | Government and politics



PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Former Prime Minister Najib Razak on Tuesday sought to remove Malaysia’s top judge from the final appeal against his 12-year prison sentence in a corruption case linked to the massive looting of state fund 1MDB.

The new twist came after a five-member federal court bench, led by Chief Justice Maimun Tuan Mat, refused last week to postpone the hearing of Najib’s newly appointed lawyers to prepare the case.

The court also rejected his attempt to introduce new evidence that could trigger a new trial on allegations of judicial bias. Najib’s new lead lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, then asked to step down as he had not had time to prepare, but the court denied his request.

Hisyam then said he would not present any new submissions in the appeal in addition to those already prepared by the previous attorney. Najib protested that his right to a fair trial was at stake as he was left without an effective lawyer or proper representation in such a case.

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The prosecution ended its closing arguments on Friday and its defense was due to begin on Tuesday.

But at the start of the hearing, Hisyam told the Federal Court that the defense had filed a motion Monday evening to disqualify the chief justice on a point of law. He said the decision was not made to delay the trial but based on new information received by the defence. He did not specify.

Maimun reminded the lawyer that it was at the discretion of the court to decide on any postponement and that Hisyam should not assume that the court must approve his request for more time. She said the court did not deprive him of the right to make submissions, but that he himself chose not to.

The court adjourned to rule on the recusal offer.

Maimun has been attacked on social media by Najib’s supporters. Police arrested a man over the weekend following death threats against Maimun.

Najib, 69, would become the first former Malaysian prime minister to be imprisoned if his appeal fails. He has maintained he is innocent and has been released on bail pending appeals.

Hundreds of Najib supporters gathered outside the court to show their support.

1MDB was a development fund that Najib established shortly after he came to power in 2009. Investigators say at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates. Najib was found guilty of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering for illegally receiving $9.4 million from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.

The 1MDB scandal sparked investigations in the United States and several other countries and led to the downfall of Najib’s government in the 2018 election. Najib faces a total of 42 charges in five separate trials related to 1MDB , and his wife is also on trial for corruption.

Yet Najib remains politically influential. His United Malays National Organization leads the current government after defections by lawmakers caused the collapse of the reformist government that won the 2018 elections.

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