PUTRAJAYA (AFP, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Najib Razak’s defence counsel applied on Thursday (Aug 18) to discharge himself from leading the defence team, as Malaysia’s top court began hearing the ex-leader’s appeal to overturn his jail sentence for corruption.

It is a high-stakes legal gambit that could see Najib locked up or potentially launching a political comeback.

The Federal Court on Tuesday dismissed the former prime minister’s plea for a retrial, clearing the way for the hearings which will be held until Aug 26.

On Thursday, Najib’s lead defence counsel, Mr Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said he could not lead the defence team due to time constraints.

The court stood down to consider the application.

The five-judge panel, led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tengku Mat, were at the bench at about 10am on Thursday for proceedings to begin.

The other four judges on the panel are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Federal Court judges, Justices Nallini Pathmanathan, Mary Lim Thiam Suan, and Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.

Najib was earlier seen arriving at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya at about 9.30am, accompanied by his children Mohd Nizar, Ashman and Nooryana Najwa.