Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How Authoritarian Regimes Retain Power: Malaysian High Court Declares Opposition Leader Guilty of Sodomy


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BANGKOK – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was Tuesday declared guilty of having committed sodomy by the Federal Court, the highest court in Malaysia, ratifying an earlier sentence by the Court of Appeal which had sentenced him to five years in prison.

Anwar, 67, termed the trial as a ploy by the authorities to remove him from politics.

In June 2008, he was accused of having had sexual relations with his aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who reported it to police.

Judge Arifin Zakaria said that the aide’s testimony was credible and corroborated with the ample proof that was also found by the judges, who passed the sentence against the politician.

“We have no reason to disturb this finding,” said Arifin while reading out the sentence, according to the Malaysia Insider news portal.

In February last year, the Court of Appeals sentenced Anwar to five years in prison, overturning an earlier ruling by a high court in 2012 which found him not guilty of the charges, allowing him to contest the general elections in 2013.

The opposition alliance obtained 52 percent of the vote-share, but managed to win only 89 of the 222 seats in parliament, while the ruling National Front won 133 seats, its worst results since its foundation.

Sodomy in Malaysia is punishable with up to 20 years of imprisonment; however, trials of this nature are uncommon in the country, where 60 percent of its 29 million inhabitants are Muslims.

Anwar had been tried on two occasions on the same charge, the first time in 1998, when he was the vice prime minister and analysts saw him as a successor to Mahathir Mohamad as head of the government.

In 1998, following a clash with Mahathir, he was dismissed from the party, removed from all his responsibilities and tried for abuse of power and sodomy, charges for which he would be sentenced to six and nine years of imprisonment, respectively.

While fighting in the courts, Anwar started his career in the opposition, beginning with the “Reformasi,” meaning reform, movement.

In 2004, the Federal Court annulled his sentence for sodomy; however, he was banned from exercising any public function for another four years.


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