The RPK case – a significant victory

Art Harun

Civil societies advocates today gained a significant victory in the Federal Court in the case involving the appeal by the Home Minister against the release of Raja Petra Kamarudin from his ISA detention.

Briefly, the Federal Court today declared that the last sitting of the Federal Court which heard and dismissed four applications (motions) by RPK was not properly convened. Consequently, the Federal Court today set aside all orders made on the said motions.

In order to appreciate the significance of today's order, allow me to give a chronology of events.


RPK was released by Justice Syed Helmy, a Judge of the High Court at Shah Alam. The Home Minister appealed against this release to the Federal Court.

Day 1 at the Federal Court

In the morning of the hearing day, we were informed that the Coram which will hear the appeal consisted of Justices Nik Hashim; Zulkifli Makinuddin and Augustine Paul. RPK advised us that he remember writing articles about Justice Augustine Paul a number of times during the Anwar Ibrahim trial. Some negative remarks were made about him by RPK in his writings.

It was felt that an application for Justice Paul to recuse himself from hearing the appeal should be made. When the matter was called for hearing, Imtiaz asked for a one day postponement in order to prepare and file the recusal application. The prosecution team objected vehemently. The Court initially refused to grant a postponement, even though we made it clear that we would file the recusal application the next day. We were instead asked to make the application there and then, orally.

Imtiaz told the Court that that was impossible to do because we needed to look at evidence and adduce the same through affidavits. The Court asked us why we had not come prepared with the application to recuse and told us to proceed. Imtiaz told the Court that we had had no notice that Justice Paul was going to sit! We were nevertheless told to proceed.

At that point of time, I stood up and walked to the public gallery – where RPK was sitting – to get his instructions. He whispered to me his instruction. His instruction was clear. We were asked not to participate in the appeal. In short, we were supposed to walk out.

I asked him to repeat his instruction, just to be very clear about it. I also told him that if we did that, the appeal would go on without his case being heard, just so he knew the risk of walking out. He repeated his instruction.

I walked back and told Imtiaz of RPK's instruction. Just then and at that precise moment, the Court relented and gave us a postponement.

The next day, we filed the application for recusal. We also wrote a letter to the Court expressing our view that perhaps, in the interest of justice, Justice Paul should not even sit to hear the recusal application.