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KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has every right to hire Datuk Yusof Zainal Abiden as his lawyer as the latter resigned from his Solicitor-General II position in February, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said today.
"...I understand that Anwar called him (Yusof) to supposedly strengthen (Anwar's) case and defend him, but what determines whether a person is guilty or not is not the lawyer, but the judge in court," Nazri was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian.
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"But I don't see what Anwar stands to gain from hiring Yusof as his lawyer as Yusof is not a renown lawyer, no one knows him," he added.
On Thursday, Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders questioned Datuk Yusof Zainal Abiden’s entry into Anwar’s legal team, saying it raised doubt over the opposition chief’s acquittal of sodomy just four months ago in which the former Solicitor-General II led the prosecution.
They told The Malaysian Insider that Yusof’s move was “unprofessional” as it damaged public perception of the trial which lasted two years and saw Pakatan Rakyat (PR) repeatedly claim that evidence had been tampered with.
“He should not have joined Anwar as it creates doubt in people’s minds that he purposely made the (sodomy) case fail,” Umno’s Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamad said yesterday.
His fellow BN backbencher from Pasir Salak, Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, also said Yusof’s “integrity is in question as some may think he was a ‘Trojan horse’ and colluded with Anwar in the sodomy trial and was not serious about getting a conviction.
”The sodomy charge, which was the second that Anwar has faced in just over a decade, had garnered international attention, with the opposition leader and other critics claiming it was politically motivated.
But Anwar claimed a symbolic victory on Tuesday in having the former No. 3 in the Attorney-General’s Chambers join his defence against an illegal assembly charge, claiming that Yusof did not want to be a part of what he called the “dirtiness”.
The PKR de facto leader pointed out that if Yusof truly thought he was guilty, then the former solicitor-general, who only recently left the civil service, would not have agreed to join his legal team in the case related to the April 28 Bersih rally.
"Yusof came here with full commitment and his performance today is proof that he only wants justice to be served,” he said.
“Anwar called me last night and I had no hesitation,” Yusof told The Malaysian Insider when approached on Tuesday.
But the Bar Council has pointed out that under the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978, Yusof must accept any case in which he professes to practice at the proper professional fee dependent on the length and difficulty of the case, but special circumstances, including conflict of interest, may justify a refusal.
Umno’s former Selangor Mentri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo said, however, it was “unprofessional” for Yusof to have taken the job so soon after prosecuting Anwar in such a high-profile case.
Tajuddin also said Yusof was not “obliged to take the job and there is no moral compulsion to do it, so why was he so willing?”
Kuantan MCA chief Datuk Ti Lian Ker, who is also a lawyer, said Yusof should have kept in mind that “justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done.”
“I am not saying it applies in this case, but the public is in mind that the political stakes are so high nowadays that everyone, even NGOs, might have their integrity compromised or be manipulated,” he said.
Nur Jazlan said the Attorney-General should now “fast track the appeal against the acquittal as justice delayed is justice denied.”
“We don’t know if there was a deliberate attempt to pervert the course of justice but the case is now in doubt,” the UDA chairman said.
Anwar, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and Rembau PKR chief Badrul Hisham Shaharin were charged on Tuesday with taking part in the April 28 Bersih 3.0 rally under section 4(2)(c) of the Peaceful Assembly Act, less than a month after the new law aimed at allowing public gatherings “in accordance with international norms” was enforced.
All three claimed trial to the offence under the Peaceful Assembly Act which carries a maximum fine of RM10,000.