[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific
Anwar sodomy trial to go ahead
Malaysian opposition leader says charges are a plot intended to discredit him as judge calls case evidence "reliable".
Last Modified: 16 May 2011 07:10
Anwar Ibrahim leaves the courthouse after a judge ruled he should stand trial on sodomy charges. [Reuters]

The trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges will go ahead after a court deemed prosecution witnesses "credible".

High court judge Zabidin Mohamed Diah on Monday decided to bring the case to trial, based on the authentication of witness testimony and DNA evidence.

Closing the hearing, Zabidin told a packed courtroom, "I find a prima facie case... has been made out against the accused," adding, "There is nothing improbable about his evidence. His evidence is reliable."

The charges allege that Anwar, 63, forcefully sodomised a former aide in June of 2008. If convicted, Anwar could be jailed for up to 20 years.

The case potentially gives a boost to Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak's government ahead of a possible general election later this year.

Immediately after the decision, Anwar told reporters that the finding was not unexpected: "Of course, it does not come as a surprise, the fact that the judge gave this ruling."

He added,"But what is clearly shocking is that he has virtually prejudged the case. He has taken, not only prima facie but extended beyond that, all the ingredients of the charge as something factual, acceptable beyond reasonable doubt, which means it's already a conviction."

This is the second time the opposition leader has faced these charges. In 1998 he was convicted of sodomy and spent six years in jail, until the conviction was overturned in 2004.

Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, whether or not between consenting adults.

While Anwar insists that the charges are a plot concocted to discredit him politically, he is now tasked with entering a plea.

The case could hand an electorial advantage to Najib's ruling Barisan Nasional party, should the prime minister choose to call snap elections - ahead of the 2013 end of his current term of office - later this year.

The trial would likely dent the chances of Anwar's People Justice Party (PJP), regarded as the link between a widely disparate three-party opposition coalition which has seen sharp differences over the use of Islamic criminal law and the rights of majority ethnic Malays.

While Barisan Nasional has been in power for over half a century, the PJP has recently been gaining ground since Najib has not delivered on several campaign promises regarding economic reforms.

The next phase of Anwar's trial is scheduled for June 6, according to court officials.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Weaving and handicrafts are being re-taught to a younger generation of Iraqi Kurds, but not without challenges.
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Featured
As nuclear age approaches eighth decade, visitors flock to historic bomb craters at New Mexico test sites.
Venezuela's president lacks the charisma and cult of personality maintained by the late Hugo Chavez.
Despite the Geneva deal, anti-government protesters in Ukraine's eastern regions don't intend to leave any time soon.
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
join our mailing list