Press Statement
20 December 2013
Lawyers for Liberty is extremely concerned (although not surprised) with the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of Anwar Ibrahim’s application to disqualify private lawyer Muhammad Shafee from leading the Attorney General’s Chambers’ appeal against Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal for sodomy.
Shafee’s appointment as Deputy Public Prosecutor smacks of desperation and sets another bad precedent, sending the wrong message that the authorities will go to extraordinary lengths to secure the conviction of UMNO’s political adversaries.
Shafee is a well known UMNO lawyer and has appeared in court and advised in several matters that concern UMNO’s interests and has admitted so in his CV. He has acted and advised former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansoh, all known and bitter political adversaries of Anwar Ibrahim. Shafee is also presently defending a few high profile defamation cased filed by Anwar Ibrahim.
It cannot be over emphasised that the Public Prosecutor represents the State, the community at large and the interest of justice, and not UMNO. 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 an accused receives a fair trial.
In spite of Shafee’s obvious conflict of interest and unsuitability, and the AG’s Chambers’ wealth of resources and hundreds of well qualified Deputy Public Prosecutors available, he has now been appointed to lead the appeal against Anwar Ibrahim.
Shafee’s appointment further tarnishes the already battered reputation of the AG’s Chambers and reinforces public perception that the AG’s Chambers is not independent and acts at the behest of UMNO to prosecute the opposition on trumped up charges or for political offences.
Like Caesar’s wife, Shafee acting as a prosecutor must be above any trace of suspicion. One certainly cannot believe without flight of fancy that Shafee will afford Anwar Ibrahim a fair trial and treat him equally and without discrimination as he is entitled to under the Constitution.
In light of all the controversies, we call upon the Attorney General to withdraw Shafee’s appointment as DPP and to work towards restoring public confidence of the rightful role of the Public Prosecutor, one that is dignified, just and free from political interference.
Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Co-founder & Adviser
Lawyers for Liberty
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