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Malaysia Deputy PM given permission to meet Najib in prison

CNA – Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (Bernama, pic below) was given “special permission” to meet and dine with former prime minister Najib Razak in prison, the home minister told reporters on yesterday.

Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said he was informed of the visit by Prisons Department Director-General Nordin Muhamad, who is the only person other than the minister that can authorise such a visit under current regulations.

“Nobody is allowed to connect with an inmate unless given special permission… No visitor can bring outside food unless given permission by the officer-in-charge,” he said, describing clauses under the Prisons Regulation 2000.

“So I hope this helps give the media perspective on the basis of the prison authority’s decision.”

Ahmad Zahid – who is also the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) president – said on Saturday that he had recently met Najib in Kajang prison and spent about two hours with him, without elaborating on what was discussed.

Ahmad Zahid told the UMNO General Assembly that he brought Najib’s “favourite food” and had breakfast with the ex-UMNO leader, who is serving a 12-year sentence on graft charges linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

“Insya Allah, there will be more ‘Najibs’ who will be present on stage in the future to continue his struggles,” Ahmad Zahid said during the convention where he stressed that the party was still seeking justice for Najib.

His revelation raised questions about the legality of such a visit, with some questioning once again if Najib was being given special treatment in prison.

Saifuddin said it is not true – despite allegations out there – that Ahmad Zahid brought along electronic devices for the visit, adding that the attending prison officer can also decide the length of the visit.

“Whether it’s 30, 40, 45 minutes, the meeting was done in the presence of a prison officer. This officer has the authority to make a decision at that moment,” he said.

“I have previously visited (current Malaysian Prime Minister) Anwar (Ibrahim) in prison at Sungai Buloh. Sometimes I got 15 minutes, 30 minutes. I rarely got 45 minutes. So, it depends on discussions with the attending officer.”

In 1999, Anwar was sentenced to six years’ jail for corruption. He then had a nine-year prison sentenced added in 2000 for sodomy charges. He was freed in 2004 after Malaysia’s top court quashed the sodomy conviction.

In 2015, he was sentenced to another five years in prison for a second sodomy conviction.

He was subsequently released in 2018 after being granted a full royal pardon.

This is not the first time that Saifuddin has used his powers as home minister to grant exemptions to Ahmad Zahid, who is currently facing corruption charges.

In March, Saifuddin confirmed that his ministry had exempted UMNO from a clause in the Societies Act to allow the party’s posts of president and deputy president to remain uncontested.