|Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim contends that the sodomy charges are politically motivated [AFP]
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has won a rare victory in his long-running sodomy trial as DNA tests on items taken from his detention cell were ruled as inadmissible.
The High Court's decision, announced on Tuesday, is a major boost for Anwar, a former deputy premier who was jailed on separate sex and corruption counts a decade ago.
Anwar faces 20 years in jail if found guilty of the new charges.
The court found that a toothbrush, mineral water bottle and a hand towel taken from the cell where Anwar was held after his arrest in July 2008 were improperly obtained. Government lawyers had sought to submit the items as evidence in the trial against Anwar.
"I find that in this case the DNA samples from the three items... were obtained by unfair means from the accused," Judge Zabidin Mohamed Diah said, adding that they were to be "excluded from evidence".
Al Jazeera’s Veronica Pedrosa, reporting from Kuala Lumpur, said the ruling is seen as a significant blow to the prosecution’s case because "the burden was on them to prove a link between Anwar and the young accuser”.
“Those three items (of evidence) were taken without consent, according to Anwar and his defence team, while he was in police custody in July of 2008.”
Anwar was in high spirits after the decision, which means the prosecution will now have to rely on the evidence of the accuser, his former aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who said he was sodomised at an upmarket condominium.
"I am grateful for the verdict and this just further supports what I have said, that I am being persecuted unfairly by the authorities in their bid to silence me," Anwar told reporters.
DNA evidence from the items taken from the detention cell - which has only been identified as "male DNA" - was intended to be linked with medical tests on 25-year-old Saiful.
At the opening of the trial in February 2011 the prosecution said those tests had found traces of Anwar's semen.
The trial, which has been punctuated by long delays, recently heard evidence from a government chemist that there were multiple unidentified DNA profiles found in Mohamad Saiful's anus and trousers.
Anwar has said he is the victim of a plot to prevent him from taking power after the opposition made huge strides in 2008 elections, stunning the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been in power for half a century.
Human Rights Watch has urged Malaysia to drop the charges, condemning the case as a "charade of justice".
Sodomy, even among consenting adults, is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia.