Malaysia's top court has begun hearing a final appeal filed by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim against a sodomy conviction widely regarded as politically motivated.

Anwar was sentenced to five years in prison in March on charges of sodomising a male aide in 2008 after the appeals court overturned an earlier acquittal.

"I am confident of winning the case if we have judicial independence,'' the 67-year-old said before entering the Federal Court, where about 200 of his supporters had gathered. "I'm mentally prepared, but I don't have much hope.''

Sodomy, even consensual, is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Anwar would also be banned from running for office for five years from the day he is released from jail.

Critics and independent human rights activists say the case against Anwar is the latest salvo in a long-running campaign by Malaysia's coalition government to silence its most potent threat. The US government and other Western governments have expressed concerns over his treatment.

"This trial is so unjust," Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, said outside the courtroom. "We hope and pray that justice will be served, not just for Anwar but for all Malaysians."

A verdict is expected on Wednesday.

Source: Agencies