Lawyers demand Bar president apologise, retract statement ‘attacking judiciary’
Some 100 lawyers have signed a petition to censure Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong for bringing the judiciary into contempt following his remarks that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was “persecuted, not prosecuted”, after the opposition leader lost his last appeal against a sodomy conviction.
The lawyers, all from the peninsula, said Leong’s press statement on February 11 was self-contradictory as he had admitted not having read the judgment of the Federal Court, yet made disparaging remarks that the ruling was without any basis by relying only on media reports.
They are demanding that Leong retract the statement and tender an unequivocal and unconditional public apology to the judiciary and the public.
Malaysian Insider reports:
“Failing which, we shall be constrained to take all necessary steps to call for his immediate resignation and call upon the Attorney-General to take the necessary contempt proceeding against him.
“This is a direct attack on the Federal Court without any legal basis with the effect of bringing the Federal Court into disrepute and odium,” the lawyers said in a joint statement.
The Malaysian Bar has about 15,500 members in the peninsula.
The lawyers said Leong’s public statement militated against the fundamental and statutory duties of the Malaysian Bar, which includes the protection of the integrity and sanctity of the judicial system.
They said Leong must appreciate the legal position that “trial by media” is not only wrong but must be abhorred in any civilised judicial system.
“Leong has, through his statements, brought the judiciary, a fundamental element in the administration of justice in Malaysia, into public contempt and ridicule by misrepresenting both facts and the law applicable in the opposition leader’s trial and conviction,” they added.
“He did this by questioning why the complainant, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, was not charged with abetment under Sections 377A and 377B read together with Section 109 of the Penal Code,” they said.
They said this was an outrageous statement coming from a senior member and leader of the Malaysian legal profession.
The lawyers said a plain reading of Sections 377A and 377B of the Penal Code must certainly lead a reader to conclude that the statutory provisions did not criminalise homosexuality but sodomy.
“Such an act is considered vile by the values held by the vast majority of Malaysians and rightly attracts sanction,” they said, adding that this was common knowledge and Leong must certainly know this.
Soon after the Federal Court affirmed Anwar’s conviction and sentence, Leong said there was a perception that the accused was persecuted, fuelled by “glaring anomalies”, including not charging Saiful.
Leong said the charge against Anwar was based on a provision of the Penal Code that was rarely used but this was later refuted by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.
Leong said Anwar had been prosecuted and convicted twice for an alleged offence of sexual acts between adults wherein the charge does not contain elements of coercion.
The Federal Court found Anwar guilty of sodomising Saiful, his former aide Saiful in a condominium unit at Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, on June 26, 2008.
Anwar was handed a five-year jail term.
In the summary of his judgment, Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria found that claims of political conspiracy by the defence team remained an unsubstantiated allegation.
He also agreed with the High Court and Court of Appeal that Saiful was a credible witness.
Several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union (EU), Canada, Australia, and Switzerland have expressed concerns over the Federal Court’s verdict. – February 21, 2015