Malaysia defers verdict in Anwar sodomy case

Federal court says it needs more time to review opposition leader's appeal against sodomy conviction.

    Malaysia defers verdict in Anwar sodomy case
    Critics and activists said the case against Anwar is part of the ruling party's move to silence the opposition [Reuters]

    Malaysia's top court has delayed giving a verdict in opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's appeal against his sodomy conviction, the country's most sensitive trial.

    Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria said on Friday that the verdict, which will have far reaching implications for Malaysia's politics, would be announced at a later, unspecified date.

    I have no worries. They (my lawyers) have destroyed the case of the prosecution.

    Anwar Ibrahim, Opposition leader

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

    On Friday, he said he was confident that the lower court verdict would be overturned.

    "I have no worries... They (my lawyers) have destroyed the case of the prosecution," Anwar, 67, told reporters outside the courtroom.

    "The authorities should stop with oppression (and) harassment, using obsolete and draconian laws."

    Critics and human rights activists said the case against Anwar was the latest in a long-running campaign by Malaysia's government to silence its most potent threat.

    The US and other Western governments have expressed concern over Anwar's treatment.

    The trial, which lasted eight days, heard submissions from both sides, and the court said it needed more time to consider the case.

    'Venom and malice'

    "The prosecution should have conducted it professionally, but here, you have so much venom and maliciousness,'' Anwar said as he left the courtroom.

    Sodomy, even consensual, is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

    If he loses the appeal, Anwar would also be banned from running for office for five years from the day he is released from jail.

    Anwar was previously imprisoned for six years after being ousted as deputy prime minister in 1998 on earlier charges of sodomising his former family driver and abusing his power.

    Anwar Ibrahim speaks to Al Jazeera

    The opposition leader, who is seen as the most popular challenger to the country's ruling party, was freed in 2004, after the top Federal Court quashed that sodomy conviction.

    Prosecutor Mohamad Shafee Abdullah said Anwar had been given a fair trial.

    Prime Minister Najib Razak's party has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957, but faces declining support.

    A guilty verdict could weaken the opposition and trigger tensions over its leadership. It could also create a wave of public anger, like it did in 1998, that could galvanise the opposition alliance.

    Anwar led the three-party alliance to unprecedented gains in 2008 elections and made further inroads in 2013 polls. Najib's National Front coalition won with a slimmer majority and lost the popular vote for the first time.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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