Malaysia's Anwar decries sodomy ruling as 'travesty' | Inquirer News

Malaysia’s Anwar decries sodomy ruling as ‘travesty’

/ 09:06 PM March 07, 2014

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim AP FILE PHOTO

PUTRAJAYA — Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal on sodomy charges was overturned Friday, in a fresh threat to the career of a charismatic politician who helped turn around the country’s once-hapless opposition.

A Court of Appeals panel sided with a government challenge to Anwar’s 2012 acquittal on charges he sodomised a male former aide, saying a lower court had misjudged evidence.


Anwar, 66, was sentenced to five years in jail, but freed pending appeal.


Once a rising star in Malaysia’s long-ruling party until his spectacular ouster in the late 1990s, Anwar has alleged a long-running campaign by the ruling regime to destroy his political career with false charges.

He bitterly rebuked the judges after the ruling.

“It is a travesty of justice. I would have thought you would have some courage,” he said to the panel.

The ruling sparked an uproar in a courtroom filled with Anwar’s opposition colleagues and supporters, as his wife and three daughters burst into tears.

About 150 Anwar supporters demonstrated outside the appeals court in the administrative capital of Putrajaya after the announcement, chanting the opposition’s battle cry of “Reformasi” (Reform), as a heavy police presence ringed the building.

Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia and punishable by up to 20 years in jail.


Anwar plans to appeal to the Federal Court, Malaysia’s highest. If that fails, besides being jailed, he would also be stripped of his parliament seat, disqualifying him from leading the opposition.

Anwar denounced Prime Minister Najib Razak and the “arrogant” United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the authoritarian ruling party that has governed tightly since independence from Britain in 1957.

“They want to end Anwar’s political career but they underestimated the wrath of the people and I believe in the wisdom of the people,” he said.

Anwar’s legal ups and downs have riveted Malaysia since the 1990s.

A charismatic campaigner and speaker, Anwar had climbed to UMNO’s pinnacle in the 1990s, reaching as high as deputy prime minister.

He was considered next in line to take the nation’s leadership but was felled in a 1998 power struggle with then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar was ousted, beaten, and jailed on sodomy and corruption charges.

His stunning fall was widely seen both at home and abroad as politically motivated and triggered massive protests in a country where dissent is suppressed.

He spent six years in prison until his 2004 release.

But his downfall had a profound impact on politics, thrusting him into the formerly pushover opposition. Under Anwar, the opposition has united, rejuvenated and now has UMNO against the wall.

The latest charges were first brought by the government shortly after Anwar led a three-party opposition alliance to what was then its best-ever showing in 2008 elections.

The opposition alliance did even better last year, shockingly winning the popular vote in general elections, but failing to gain control of parliament due to decades of UMNO gerrymandering.

Anwar has called the latest sodomy saga a desperate attempt by a corrupt and fearful ruling regime to halt the opposition’s advance.

“This trial was all about knocking Anwar Ibrahim out of politics and the government was prepared to do whatever it took to make that happen,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

A statement released by Najib’s government after the verdict insisted the judiciary was “independent” and that the verdict was reached in a “balanced and objective manner”, declining further comment.

But the ruling triggered condemnation on social media by supporters of Anwar’s party, many of whom called for street protests.

The timing of the long-delayed appeal decision has raised eyebrows, coming just as Anwar plans to contest a by-election in the key central state of Selangor, which surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur, on March 23.

He was expected to win and subsequently be made boss of the state, Malaysia’s richest, in a bid to further boost his and the opposition’s clout.

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But the conviction disqualifies him from contesting.

TAGS: acquittal, Malaysia, News, Politics, world

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