The Malaysian Bar has expressed concern over the continued harassment of prominent lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan over a suit filed by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown.
Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said Ambiga has been subjected to vicious racist and sexist remarks.
“We condemn these personal attacks. Acts of harassment or intimidation may amount to contempt of the UK courts, and must cease immediately,” he said in a statement today.
Police are currently investigating Ambiga under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act 1998 for causing public alarm.
Commenting on the police investigations, Varughese said there was no legal basis for a probe because allegations in Rewcastle-Brown’s defence statements have yet to be established as truth.
“Any such investigation is tantamount to harassment and/or intimidation of a potential witness,” he said.
He said it also appeared that Ambiga was being singled out by various individuals, although there are grave allegations made against numerous people in the suit.
Hadi had sued Rewcastle-Brown in the UK over a Sarawak Report article which alleged that PAS had received RM90 million from Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in exchange for political favours. Najib has denied the allegation.
According to Hadi’s court filings, he argued that Rewcastle-Brown did not conduct proper fact checks and that his reputation was damaged as a result of the article.
Rewcastle-Brown’s defence statement named Ambiga as one of the sources for her article, prompting critics to demand an explanation from the lawyer.
The crux of the defence statement relied on Rewcastle-Brown’s rights under Section 4 of UK’s Defamation Act 2013 to make statements in the public’s interest.
She argued that her article was part of a “justified campaign” to seek Najib’s ouster and that Hadi was the premier’s accessory.
Her defence statements also outlined Najib’s involvement with 1MDB, the US Department of Justice investigations on 1MDB-linked assets, purported new-found wealth of numerous PAS leaders and the alleged funnelling of some RM200 million to a former PAS leader.