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Anwar’s Appeal Rejected, Trial On July 8

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has lost a final bid to have his sodomy trial held in a lower court, ending a long wrangle over where the case should be heard, his lawyer said Thursday.

The Court of Appeal rejected the application and affirmed an earlier decision that the politically charged case should be heard in the High Court. The trial is due to start July 8.

Amid widespread doubts over the standards of Malaysia’s judiciary, Anwar’s supporters have said they fear authorities will be able to manipulate the case more easily in the High Court.

“The decision is not appealable. I am most disappointed with the decision today,” his lawyer Sankara Nair told AFP.

Anwar, 61, has repeatedly rejected sodomy allegations levelled by a 23-year-old former aide; the same charge that saw him jailed a decade ago, as a government conspiracy to derail his plan to topple the ruling coalition.

Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is illegal in predominantly Muslim Malaysia and carries a penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.

Anwar is campaigning to unseat the Barisan Nasional coalition which has ruled Malaysia since 1957, after the opposition deprived the government of its two-thirds majority in an unprecedented performance in the 2008 elections.

The opposition leader is currently out on bail pending his trial but his supporters have expressed fears that it might be revoked during the hearing.

In a recent interview with AFP, Anwar voiced concern that false evidence could be introduced in a bid to jail him and end his political career.

The former deputy prime minister said however that the opposition alliance he leads would survive even if he is convicted and jailed.

Anwar was found guilty of separate sodomy and corruption charges a decade ago in a case widely seen as politically motivated. In 2004 the sodomy conviction was overturned, allowing him to go free after six years in jail.

Source : AFP

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