28 July, 2010

DPP Farah Azlina Latif removed over alleged romantic link with Saiful

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Farah Azlina Latif who was alleged to have a romantic relationship with key witness Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan has been dropped from the prosecution team in the Anwar Ibrahim sodomy trial.

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail confirmed that the junior prosecutor had been removed. He said it was not because she was found guilty, but to avoid any negative public perception on the prosecution team.

He said Farah Azlina was also dropped from the Prosecution Division of the Attorney-General's Chambers for the same reason.

"This move is also to ensure that the smooth running of the case is not affected," he said.

"The Attorney-General's Chambers cannot compromise on any issue that can tarnish the image or credibility of the department and we are looking at such matters very seriously.

"This can be very difficult for us but any personal matter, if it can have any implication in whatever form on the department, will be handled very seriously," he told reporters at a press conference at his office.

Abdul Gani added that Farah Azlina had very limited involvement in the case, which was to assist in recording all notes on the proceedings.

"She had no access at all to the investigation papers or any confidential information that the prosecution has," he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said the allegations against Deputy Public Prosecutor Farah Azlina Latif are serious enough to warrant disciplinary action and should be investigated.

Actions such as being romantically linked to a key witness in a prosecution are "ethical matters".

"It is definitely is an ethical matter, as prosecutions are done in the interest of justice. You are there to put your case before the court in the interest of justice. As there is no client here, there should be no relationship between prosecutor and complainant," he said.

"Even in a private solicitor-client relationship, it is unethical as the issue of objectivity would be questioned. Will the solicitor be fair to the client. It is even more onerous in the case of a prosecutor," added Ragunath.

He said he supported her removal from the team and an investigation to determine whether the prosecution has been compromised and whether she had access to any information that would compromise the prosecution of the accused.

He added that a lawyer could be disbarred for such a relationship, but cautioned that certain factors have to be considered.

"Many factors have to be considered such as the extent of the relationship and the time it occurred- was it before, during or after the time the lawyer was handling the case.

The test when it comes to punishment is whether it affected his or her objectivity in handling the case," said Ragunath.

Anwar's counsel Sankara Nair accused Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail of skirting the issue when he announced that Farah had been dropped from the prosecution team and the division.

"He didn't confirm...I think the AG is skirting the issue as he has yet to reply to me formally. By taking this action, he is only fueling suspicions with regards to this matter," he said.

He had sent a letter to Solicitor-General II Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden on Monday to seek a confirmation of the information which first appeared on the Malaysia Today blog.

When asked if Anwar's defence team would move for a mistrial, Sankara declined to comment, but said it was an option.

"Under the law, Saiful cannot be given any advantage, and he should be treated like any other witness, because it is the public prosecutor who is prosecuting Anwar. He cannot access any information he is not allowed to have," he said. -- theSun

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