Judge issues warning, Zahid’s lawyers apologise and say will ask his daughter to remove Instagram post

(MMO) – The High Court today issued a warning against comments made in a sub judice manner about former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s ongoing criminal trial, after his daughter Datuk Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid’s Instagram post was brought to the court’s attention.

This morning just before the trial could proceed, the case’s lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran highlighted that the prosecution has been informed of an Instagram posting under the account name “nurul.zahid” who is believed to be Ahmad Zahid’s daughter.

Showing printed screenshots of the Instagram post to the court, Raja Rozela said there was certain materials inside which the prosecution think is “prejudicial” especially to the prosecution.

Raja Rozela said the Instagram post’s author had made “blatant” lies and accusations in comments about the prosecution and the trial that has been heard over the past two days.

Raja Rozela noted that the author of the Instagram post had attempted to explain Ahmad Zahid’s statements to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in July 2018, and that the Instagram post had made a baseless accusation that was not part of the defence raised by Ahmad Zahid’s own lawyers throughout these two days.

“At the fourth paragraph, Your Lordship will see that the author made a baseless accusation against the public prosecutor when she said ‘due to the prosecution wishing to continue prosecutions on the accused, they had amended Section 30(7) of MACC Act on October 1, 2018’.

“That implies we purposely deleted that, the Section 30(7) just to get at the accused person, which I believe my learned friend never said that. And this comment is baseless and is a blatant accusation and unfair to the prosecution, My Lord,” she said.

Section 30(7) of the MACC Act — which was repealed in October 2018 but was in force in July 2018 when Ahmad Zahid’s statement was recorded — had been raised during the trial on Monday and Tuesday by Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik.

Teh had during the trial argued that Section 30(7) — which gives immunity from prosecution over information disclosed truthfully to the MACC — meant that Ahmad Zahid should have immunity from 46 of the 47 charges that he is currently facing. Teh however had not argued that Section 30(7) was revoked to prevent Ahmad Zahid from having immunity, but instead had argued that Ahmad Zahid’s would still have immunity even despite the revocation.

Another excerpt of the Instagram post that Raja Rozela highlighted was where Ahmad Zahid’s daughter claimed that the prosecution had said there was no element of corruption in his case and that it was merely “fitnah” or slander.

However, Raja Rozela pointed out that the prosecution has yet to make its oral submissions in court: “Obviously the prosecution has not even started our arguments, so this is again a blatant lie by this author.”

The trial proceedings this week were scheduled for the beginning of oral submissions by both sides, with Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers having presented their arguments since Monday and continuing to do so today, and it has yet to be the prosecution’s turn to present their arguments verbally in court.

“I believe nurul.zahid is obviously ignorant of the law, but more importantly motivated by ill-intention to prejudice the proceedings of this case.

“This issue is still ongoing, is still under judicial consideration, the posting amounts to sub judice and we ask the court to prohibit this author and all other would-be authors, overzealous authors who were to make any comments about the ongoing proceedings at any time.

“My Lord, we take this very, very seriously. At this moment, I’ve not been instructed to initiate any contempt proceedings but I think this is sufficient notice for the public not to make any comment on judicial proceedings,” she said.

One of Zahid’s lawyers, Hamidi Mohd Noh initially said this was a “small matter however, very important because it involves sub judice” and said the defence team would look into it.

When the judge remarked this was “hardly a small matter”, Hamidi agreed that it is a “serious matter”.

“And I would like to first apologise to the courts and we would look into this and we will ask the author to remove the posting if it is the court’s will,” he said.

Asked by the judge if that was all, Hamidi said: “We need to check first. If this is an issue that requires removal, I would ask for removal.”

Zahid’s lead defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told the court that the author will be advised to remove the Instagram post. However, he also said such matters were beyond the defence team’s control.

“On behalf of the defence, perhaps to say this will not happen again, but beyond our control,” he said.

Trial judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah then gave a brief warning without naming anyone.

“But I think this court has to issue perhaps a warning that comments of sub judice nature shouldn’t be made while the trial is ongoing,” he said, and continued with the trial.

Hamidi then continued to present arguments on why the defence team believed that Ahmad Zahid should be acquitted of the criminal breach of trust charges that he is facing in this case.

Following a short break in the court proceedings, Hamidi subsequently informed the court that the Instagram post has been removed.

“On the issue raised by the prosecution, I believe an apology has been posted by the maker of the statement. She has removed the statement and she apologised to the court as well,” he said.

Malay Mail’s check of the Instagram account showed that the post highlighted in court today has been removed, with Zahid’s daughter having posted up two new Instagram posts.

The first post which she captioned as “My apology” stated: “I would apologise to the court for the postings made. I should not share or commented what transpired during the proceedings. It will not happen again. All the best to both PROSECUTION vs DEFENCE.”

In her second Instagram post, she went on to claim that she has now understood that public perception towards the prosecution is more important than public perception towards the accused, further claiming that this was why those who have yet to be found guilty are already considered guilty, while also stating in her caption that only time will tell.

In this trial, Zahid ― who is a former home minister and currently the Umno president ― is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

The prosecution had previously called 99 prosecution witnesses who testified over a period of 53 days, and had rested its case.

The trial is now at the stage of the end of the prosecution’s case, with the judge to hear final arguments from both sides before deciding whether the prosecution has proven a prima facie case or sufficient case for Ahmad Zahid to defend himself against or whether he should be acquitted of the charges.