Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shafee’s appointment as lead prosecutor in Anwar sodomy appeal raises questions

An unprecedented move by the government to use Umno lawyer Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as the lead prosecutor in the appeal against the acquittal of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the sodomy case has raised eyebrows as this could lead to more charges of this being a politically-motivated case.

Shafee told the three-man Court of Appeal bench chaired by Datuk Ramly Ali that he was appointed by the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

He is replacing former solicitor-general II Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden who led the prosecution team in the trial stage.

Shafee, a former deputy public prosecutor before he went into private practice, told reporters that he received a letter from Abdul Gani on July 11 to lead the prosecution team.

"My appointment is in accordance with the Federal Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code. The AG is the only person, and not even the prime minister, who can direct me on this," he said.

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Shafee said he was paid a "minimal sum" due to the existence of a contract between him and the government. "That is very officious in terms of remuneration. Just as I am being appointed in other positions for law, I will do it even if there is no emolument. I consider this a public service," he said.

Shafee, a leading criminal lawyer, said he would finish arguing the appeal within two to three hours.

He dismissed claims that his appointment as an ad-hoc DPP was "controversial".

"Why is it controversial? This is an appointment of a private lawyer by the AG," he said, adding this is not the first time such an appointment was made.

In the case of Teoh Beng Hock, Shafee said Datuk Tan Hock Chuan was appointed to assist the public prosecutor in the inquiry.

Shafee said in the 80s the AG then had delegated his powers to Datuk V.L. Kandan to handle delicate copyright cases.

Shafee said his appointment should not be made a political issue.

"What political motive? I am not even a politician. Many people do not know but I am not a member of any political party."

"I’ll be insulted if I am appointed for political purposes. I would like to think that I am appointed because I am capable," he added.

He said there was also no conflict of interest in appearing for the public prosecutor.

"I can only be in conflict of interest if assuming I have acted for Anwar before in a case which is linked to this," he added.

Shafee said after reading the entire 25 volumes of appeal records he found the government had a "very strong case".

"I believe the only reason for acquittal was apparently the issue of the exhibit being possibly tampered with. There was a total misinterpretation and I would like to put the record straight during the appeal," he said.

Anwar, the parliamentary Opposition Leader, was freed in January last year of allegedly sodomising his former political aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, at Desa Damansara condominium on June 26, 2008.

Trial judge Datuk Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah said it was unsafe to convict Anwar as the court could not ascertain the integrity of the samples as the investigating officer, DSP Jude Blacious Pereira, had opened the plastic bag containing the samples.

Twenty-seven prosecution witnesses and seven defence witnesses testified in the trial which went on for more than three years.

Anwar himself gave an unsworn statement from the dock.

Meanwhile, the appeal hearing was postponed as the lead defence counsel Karpal Singh is hospitalised for a back pain.

Co-counsel Ramkarpal Singh also informed the bench today that the defence is objecting to Shafee's appearance.

"The defence could raise its objection before the appeal proceedings start," Ramly said.

Shafee, who is assisted by deputy public prosecutors Datuk Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria and Noorin Badaruddin, did not object to the postponement.

Anwar was present in court. New appeal dates will be fixed on Aug 1. - July 22, 2013

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