The charges against Anwar seemed cooked up and malicious, but government prosecutors pressed ahead anyway, writes Asia Sentinel’s John Berthelsen
Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II trial, which ran almost two years before ending in 2012, was built on flawed evidence, procedural mistakes, tainted witnesses and reports of political collusion with the current prime minister, and was condemned internationally by legal scholars and human rights activists.
He was eventually acquitted for lack of evidence only to have an appeals court reverse that decision, ruling in favor of a government appeal on Friday. He was sentenced to five years in prison but is free on bail pending appeal. Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia.
The sudden reversal on Friday shocked political observers and the general public.
Sordid and Unbelievable
The story began on June 28, 2008 when a then-24-year-old aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhairy Azlan, made the sodomy accusation against Anwar, who had led the three-party Pakatan Rakyat coalition to a historic sweep of five Malaysian states, winning 82 parliamentary seats in general elections and breaking the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition’s two-thirds majority hold on parliament.
Despite an offer to appear voluntarily at the police station to deal with the charges, the opposition leader was arrested at his home on July 16 of that year by a contingent of 10 carloads of police commandos and was locked up overnight in a Kuala Lumpur jail.
The trial, which began in February 2010, was marred by the introduction of a mountain of questionable evidence, egregious prosecutorial errors and a long series of prejudicial rulings by High Court Judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohamad Diah.
From the very beginning, doubts began to surface. To start with, Saiful belatedly sought to get doctors to certify that he had been sodomized 48 hours after the alleged encounter. Records showed he first went to a private hospital where a doctor found no evidence of penetration and told him to go to a government hospital. At the first government hospital, doctors also told him they had found no evidence of tearing or scarring that would have indicated his anus had been penetrated. He was forced to go to a third government hospital where he finally found a physician willing to say the act had taken place.
Saiful acknowledged in court that he had met with then-Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, on June 24, 2008, two days before the alleged sodomy took place and on other occasions with Rosmah’s close confidant, the former track star Mumtaz Jaafar. Neither the prime minister nor his wife nor Mumtaz was called to the stand to explain why they met with Saiful.
There were many questions about the DNA, which was allegedly taken from Saiful’s rectum 90 hours after the reported act took place. He claimed not to have eaten, drunk nor gone to the bathroom for that entire period.
The evidence was not refrigerated and was stored in an unguarded police office. Government laboratory technicians testified that as many as 11 different DNA traces had been found in Saiful’s rectum. At one point Zabidin ruled that the DNA was too doubtful to be admitted, only to have the prosecution appeal, at which point the judge reversed himself, leading to charges he had been coerced.
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