Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's legal letter to The Wall Street Journal has left lawyers puzzled.

For Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen, it is a "bizarre" document.

"How bizarre asking for clarification. Just read the articles yourselves.

"If you don't understand what was written by WSJ or you have something to hide, in all likelihood, the articles were not defamatory," he tweeted.

Contacted later, Paulsen ( photo ) said any letter of demand should be clear and to the point.

"For defamation, it must state which parts are defamatory, the meanings attributed, the loss of reputation etc. Here, the lawyers are unclear as to which parts are defamatory," he said.

It was reported that Najib's lawyers from the firm of Hafarizam, Wan Aisha & Mubarak, had today given Dow Jones, the publisher of WSJ, 14 days to confirm the international newspaper's articles that appeared on July 3 and July 6.

"We are instructed by our client to seek confirmation as to whether it is your position, as taken in the articles, that our client misappropriated nearly US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) from 1MDB?

"We are instructed to procure your position because the articles collectively suggest that you are unsure of the 'original source of the money and what happened to the money' whilst on the other hand, the general gist of the articles create a clear impression that our client has misappropriated US$700 million belonging to 1MDB," stated the e-mailed letter.

WSJ had earlier responded saying it stood by the article, while Dow Jones maintained a similar stand as well.

'Every sentence makes me cringe'

Another lawyer Azhar Harun ( photo ) commented on Facebook this was the first time he found lawyers asking their potential opponent the meaning of what they had published.

"The lawyers are asking their potential opponent the meaning of what they had published before deciding what to do next," he said, adding that almost every sentence made him cringe.

"If I were acting for Dow Jones, I would advise them to reply as follows : Dear lawyers, inability to grasp and/or understand what we had published is not a known or established ground for defamation suits. Thank you," he quipped.

Azhar or better known as Art Harun also joked that he was surprised Najib's lawyers did not ask Dow Jones to produce four trustworthy witnesses to back up their allegations and quote Hadiths and Quranic verses in an obvious reference to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang .

Hadi had suggested that witnesses be produced to back-up WSJ's claims on Najib, adding that they should be trustworthy and just people.

'Let PR people draft a spin'

Former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim ( photo ) also tweeted his views on the letter.

Zaid, who previously owned the biggest law firm in the country, said lawyers could write good letters if they are clear what the client wants.

"If the client wants a spin, ask his PR (public relations) guys to do it, not you," he said.

Meanwhile, lawyer Wan Azmir Wan Majid from the firm representing the prime minister said Dow Jones must respond to their letter within 14 days.

"At this moment, the most important issue is WSJ's confirmation with regard to the alleged misappropriation of funds from 1MDB that it claimed our client was involved in," he told Bernama.

Wan Azmir said should Dow Jones fail to respond to the letter within 14 days, the firm would send a letter of demand which it must reply within 14 days.

   

"Nevertheless, it is for our client to instruct us on the next course of action. What we are doing now is a normal process in any defamation suit," he said.

He said the suit could be filed anywhere, in Malaysia or the United States, depending on convenience.

He explained that three elements must be present in a defamation suit: the words complained of must be defamatory; the words complained of must refer to the plaintiff; and those statements must reach a third party.

"Delivery of the statements to a third party can be made orally or in writing. Because the WSJ's articles are also circulated through their portal or newspaper, this means that the third party that received them is in Malaysia.

   

"Hence why the action can be filed in Malaysia," he added.

Selangor exco member and lawyer Teng Chang Khim ( photo ) also expressed surprise.

“If the money did not go to your account, any reasonably competent lawyer will advise you to issue a statement categorically denying it and then issue a letter demanding for apology and in default of which legal action ensues.

“I don't know what happened to you or your lawyer,” he said.

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