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Malaysian court upholds sodomy conviction of opposition leader

By
Andrew V. Pestano
Anwar Ibrahim was previously imprisoned in 1999 but acquitted in 2004 of sodomy and corruption convictions that he said were politically motivated. Photo credit: imagemaker / Shutterstock.com
Anwar Ibrahim was previously imprisoned in 1999 but acquitted in 2004 of sodomy and corruption convictions that he said were politically motivated. Photo credit: imagemaker / Shutterstock.com

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The Malaysian Federal Court in Putrajaya upheld the sodomy conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday.

He is sentenced to five years in prison. Anwar was charged with sodomy in 2008 after being accused by former political aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

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Anwar, 67, was initially acquitted in 2012, but the Malaysian government appealed the decision in the now seven-year legal battle.

"This, to me, is a fabrication coming from a political conspiracy to stop my career," Anwar said after the court upheld the conviction. Anwar called the judges "partners in crime" who "chose to remain on the dark side."

Sodomy is illegal in Malaysia and punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The Federal Court's ruling on a lower courts decision effectively ends Anwar's chances of appeal.

Anwar was the leader of the Pakatan Rakyat, or People's Pact, coalition group.

Malaysia's governing party, United Malays National Organization, has been in power through coalitions since the country's independence from Britain in 1957.

Recently, Malaysian prosecutors have charged multiple government critics and opposition leaders with a sedition law that dates back to British colonial times that makes it illegal to bring "hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Malaysia."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister of Malaysia released a statement that said the charges were not motivated by government influence because the individual who accused Anwar "had every right to have his case heard in court."

"In this case, exhaustive and comprehensive due process has been followed over many years. That process is now complete, and we call on all parties involved to respect the legal process and the judgment," the statement said.

The International Commission of Jurists said the court's decision is "a clear setback to the rule of law in Malaysia and is incompatible with the principle of presumption of innocence."

The burden of proof was placed on Anwar to prove his defense instead of the typical burden to raise reasonable doubt for prosecution, according to the ICJ commissioner Justice Elisabeth Evatt.

Justice Evatt said the Malaysian court "once again inappropriately" used the penal code against "political opponents."

"This is deplorable, especially since Section 377B criminalises consensual same-sex relations, and thereby, violates a range of international law and standards, including on the rights to privacy, non-discrimination and equal protection," Justice Evatt said. The ICJ had previously asked Malaysia to repeal the sodomy law.

Emerlynne Gil, an international legal adviser for ICJ, said "Anwar Ibrahim should never have been investigated, charged with, tried, let alone convicted of and sentenced for such charges."

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