Friday, March 09, 2007

Razak Baginda trial judge change: Something’s wrong (Malaysiakini)

Razak Baginda trial judge change: Something’s wrong
Charles Hector
Mar 8, 07 4:24pm

I refer to the malaysiakini report Analyst's case expedited, up for mention Friday which stated that the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder trial has been transferred to Justice Mohd Zaki Md Yassin tomorrow. I am disturbed. The question in my mind was why and how did such a thing happened.

The case was before Justice KN Segara, who had already fixed hearing dates. As far as I know, the said judge is still there in the Shah Alam High Court and from what we have read in the mainstream media, there was no application to transfer the case to another judge for whatever reason.

In fact, it is seems clear that there was no formal application before the court because another report states that ‘… Zulkifli Noordin, counsel for the two accused in the case, said he was informed about the change yesterday’. He, being the lawyer for the two who are facing a more serious charge, would definitely have been involved in any such application.

The change of judge makes one wonder whether there was any hanky-panky involved here. Was this an act of ‘judge choosing’? Was it the chief justice who caused the transfer? Was it the public prosecutor (the attorney- general) that caused the change? Was it somebody else? Who caused the changing of the judge who will hear the case?

Something is really not right and I hope that in the very near future, the truth behind this startling change of judges for this murder trial will be disclosed.

Now, if an accused person is not happy with a particular judge, then the proper step to take is to make an application that the said judge be removed. In this case, there seems to have been no such application.

The very act of the transfer of a criminal case from a judge who has already fixed trial dates is also, I believe, an act disrespectful to the said honourable judge.

Now, if Justice KN Segara was being transferred to somewhere like Tawau, Sabah or had become permanently incapacitated by reason of illness, making it rather impractical for him to continue to hear this case, then maybe it would have been alright for another judge to take over the hearing of the case.

The whole thing of changing judges is out of the ordinary, and some really good explanation better be given for this, more so since this case has generated great public interest not just in Malaysia but also in many other countries.

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