High Court judge Sophian Abdul Razak has granted the defence's application for an interim gag order with regard to the case involving former premier Najib Abdul Razak.
Najib's lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah argued that the gag order was crucial in order to prevent statements which could affect his client's case.
He also cited the alleged incidents of how his client had been subjected to a “trial by media” even before his case is heard in court.
When the court sought clarification, Shafee said the gag order should cover the publication of statements or material on the merits of the case.
Attorney-general Tommy Thomas (photo below), who is leading the prosecution team, objected to the application.
He argued that the principles of freedom of speech under the Federal Constitution should remain supreme.
He said Shafee should put in a formal application rather than request for an interim order, and that the prosecution would then "oppose vigorously" to the application.
Thomas later told reporters outside the courtroom that the prosecution was taken by surprise over the gag order application.
He also reiterated that they would file a formal objection during the first case management fixed on Aug 8.
The interim gag order will also expire on Aug 8, he added.
"We didn't know how wide the scope (of the gag order) is. We were taken by surprise," said Thomas, who added that further clarifications from the media should be directed at Shafee.
"I am not the author of the gag order, I am opposed to it."
"You read the four charges, go consult good lawyers, they will tell you your rights," he said when asked whether the media will be able to continue reporting on the case.
'Test for the system'
This morning, Najib claimed trial to four charges, three under the Penal Code for Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) and one under the MACC Act.
Shafee told reporters outside the courtroom that the gag order was to prevent anyone including Najib himself from discussing the merits of the case.
"These includes comments made by people either on social media, at press conferences, in media reports and in the print or electronic media.
Shafee said the gag order does not apply to the ongoing 1MDB investigations.
In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini last week, the former premier described his upcoming trial as a test for Malaysia and hoped that he would be accorded a fair trial.
"What Malaysians want to see is the rule of law, not only being said but practised so that they will have this conviction that we have a transparent system.
"This is not a test for me, but a test for the system - whether the system can reflect the trust that the people must have in the system.
"I believe in my innocence. Therefore, the only way I can clear my name is through a system that is fair and a system that is predicated on the rule of law," he said.