The Attorney General must review whether Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (pic) is “fit and proper” to lead the prosecution seeking to set aside Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal for sodomy after a court decided the Umno lawyer was guilty of professional misconduct, says a lawyers group.
Lawyer for Liberty adviser Eric Paulsen said although Shafee’s violation of the publicity rule was not a serious offence, it was an additional point for Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to take into consideration.
“He (Gani) must review whether Shafee is a fit and proper person, adding to the long list of negative perception against the Umno lawyer leading the prosecution team,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Paulsen said the breach of “laudatory remarks” was not as serious as breaching the rules governing conflict of interest.
He noted that Shafee was a well-known Umno lawyer and has appeared in court and offered advice in several matters that concern the party’s interests.
Paulsen also said Shafee had acted and advised former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, all bitter political adversaries of Anwar.
He added Shafee was also presently defending a few high-profile defamation cases filed by Anwar.
“It cannot be over emphasised that the public prosecutor represents the State, the community at large and the interest of justice. The purpose of a criminal prosecution is not to obtain a conviction but to place fairly and independently before the courts all available evidence to what is alleged to be a crime.
“While the public prosecutor is not ultimately responsible for determining the guilt or innocence of an accused person, he or she must ensure that the accused receives a fair trial,” said the civil rights lawyer.
Paulsen questioned why Shafee was picked to lead the prosecution’s team in spite of the lawyer’s obvious conflict of interest, unsuitability, the Attorney General’s Chambers’ wealth of resources and the availability of well-qualified deputy public prosecutors to argue the sodomy appeal.
In the second application to disqualify Shafee, Anwar had said that the senior lawyer was also in breach of the Legal Profession Act (LPA) as his role as a deputy public prosecutor (DPP) would give rise to a conflict of interest.
On Friday, the High Court had dismissed Shafee’s appeal against the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board which had fined him RM5,000 for breaching the publicity rule under the LPA.
Judge Datuk Zaleha Yusof said it was unnecessary to “disturb” the findings of the board which found Shafee guilty of professional misconduct.
On September 27, 2009, The Star newspaper had featured an article about Shafee which was said to be “laudatory” of the Umno lawyer.
In 2010, then-Bar Council chairman Ragunath Kesavan reported the matter to the board following the publication of the article.
Shafee was hauled up before the board and was fined RM5,000 on October 5, 2012, for misconduct.
Shafee was appointed DPP in August 2013 as it was believed that the sodomy appeal was a delicate case which needed outside expertise.
Anwar had first challenged the legality of Shafee’s appointment under the Criminal Procedure Code but this was dismissed by the Federal Court on November 20.
His second application to disqualify Shafee, which was based on a statutory declaration (SD) by former Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Department chief Datuk Mat Zain Ibrahim, was also dismissed on December 20 by the Court of Appeal.
Among others, Mat Zain, in his 31-page SD, had said that he had gone with Shafee and former Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Datuk Ramli Yusof to Dr Mahathir’s house earlier this year, where they allegedly discussed the wrongdoings of the Attorney General.
Anwar has since filed an appeal to the Federal Court to disqualify Shafee but no dates have been fixed yet to hear the case.
On January 9, 2012, Anwar, 66, was acquitted by the High Court on a charge of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan at a condominium unit in Bukit Damansara in 2008.
That appeal will be heard on February 12. – January 13, 2014.
BY V. ANBALAGAN, The Malaysian Insider