Malaysia court hears Anwar sodomy final appeal


A COURT in Malaysia is hearing a final appeal filed by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim against his sodomy conviction.

Mr Anwar was accused of sodomising a male aide in 2008. Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, but very few people are ever prosecuted.

The popular politician was sentenced to five years in jail in March after an earlier acquittal was overturned.

He says the case is a move by the ruling coalition to prevent him from participating in politics.

The BBC’s Malaysia correspondent Jennifer Pak says hundreds of Mr Anwar’s supporters have gathered in front of the court house, in the administrative capital Putrajaya to protest, calling for justice.

Mr Anwar is widely seen as the only man who can break the governing coalition’s dominance in Malaysia, our correspondent reports.

On Wednesday, before proceedings began Mr Anwar said if there was “judicial independence in the country” he would be freed, reported the Associated Press.

BN EZ699 malanw G 20141014112829If found guilty, the 67-year-old would face prison and would be barred from running for office for five years from the day he is released from jail.

That would mean he would be unable to contest the next general election, which must be held by 2018.

“The ‘sodomy’ charges against Anwar Ibrahim are clearly politically motivated and a blatant attempt by the Malaysian authorities to silence and undermine a critical voice,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

A decision from the court is expected on Thursday.

In 2008, Mr Anwar was accused of having sex with a male political aide. He was cleared by a High Court of the charges in 2012 because of a lack of evidence.

The government then appealed against his acquittal and it was overturned by the court.

This is Mr Anwar’s second sodomy conviction since he was sacked from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition government in 1998. His previous conviction was also overturned.

Timeline: Anwar Ibrahim

1993 to 1998 – Deputy Prime Minister, under Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad
1999 – Jailed for abuse of power, sparking huge street protests
2000 – Found guilty of sodomy with his wife’s driver
2004 – Supreme Court overturns sodomy conviction, freeing him from jail. He quickly emerges as the de facto opposition leader
March 2008 – ruling coalition narrowly wins general election, but with its worst results in 50 years. The opposition makes unprecedented gains
Aug 2008 – Anwar charged with sodomy for a second time, but despite this is soon voted in as an MP
Feb 2009 – Second trial for sodomy starts
Jan 2012 – Acquitted of sodomy by High Court
May 2013: Leads opposition to best-ever performance in general elections
Mar 2014: 2012 acquittal overturned by court after government appeal.