Malaysia’s top court has upheld opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction for sodomy. Mr Anwar was accused of having sex with a male aide in 2008. Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, but very few people are ever prosecuted.
The popular politician was sentenced to five years in jail in March 2014 after an earlier acquittal was overturned – a ruling against which he appealed. He says the case is a bid by the ruling coalition to block him from politics.
Mr Anwar – who heads a three-party alliance – is widely seen as the only man who can break the governing coalition’s dominance, correspondents say. The Barisan Nasional has been in power since 1957, but suffered its worst-ever result in the most recent elections in May 2013. ‘Political decision’ Ahead of the verdict, Mr Anwar, 67, said there was “no reason whatsoever for them to ever consider putting me to jail”. “I am innocent,” he said. “Now in the event there’s a political decision to put me in jail, I understand the system, I’ve served time in prison… But then this is a price I have to pay.” In 2008, Mr Anwar was accused of having sex with a male political aide. He was cleared by a High Court of the charges in 2012 because of a lack of evidence.
The government then appealed against his acquittal and it was overturned by the court. It is Mr Anwar’s appeal against this ruling that has now been rejected. This is the opposition leader’s second sodomy conviction since he was sacked from the Barisan Nasional government in 1998. His previous conviction, from 2000, was overturned.
Human Rights Watch condemned what it described as the “selective persecution” of Mr Anwar. “PM Najib’s government wants to push him off the political process,” Reuters news agency quoted Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy director for Asia, as saying.