Malaysia: Opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim loses final bid for freedom
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Malaysia: Opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim loses final bid for freedom

MALAYSIA’s Federal Court on Wednesday rejected Anwar Ibrahim’s application to review his conviction and five-year prison sentence for sodomy, a decision likely to add fuel to the opposition’s campaign against the government.

With the decision, Anwar, whose active participation in Malaysian politics is seen as central to the campaign, has officially exhausted all available legal means to win an acquittal.

Local media reports say the 69-year-old politician who was once the country’s second most powerful man will now have to serve out the last 16 months of his prison sentence.

“[We] find there is no merit in this application. This is not a fit and proper case for this court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction to exercise its discretion to review,” Chief Judge of the High Court of Malaya Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin was quoted in Malay Mail Online as saying in court when reading out the decision by the five-man panel.

Anwar was charged with sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008. The Kuala Lumpur High Court first acquitted the leader four years later in 2012 but the decision was overturned in March 2014 by the Court of Appeal, which also sentenced the politician to five years’ jail.

Anwar’s team later challenged this but the conviction and the prison sentence was upheld by the Federal Court on Feb 10 last year, a decision that saw him unceremoniously booted from the office of opposition leader and parliamentarian for the Permatang Pauh constituency.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia: Anwar Ibrahim returns to court in final bid for freedom

The conviction not only stripped these posts from Anwar, who is one of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s few powerful political threats, but also disqualified him from contesting in the next general election, which must be held by mid-2018.

Last April, Anwar went back to the Federal Court in yet another attempt to win his freedom. This time, he called for a review of the judges’ decision, claiming it was tainted by bias and noting that his guilty judgment had been upheld despite challenges to the credibility of the DNA evidence presented in the case. Anwar also pointed to how the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had so quickly issued a press statement after the decision was delivered, as though they had already known the likely outcome of the case.

Another ground for review, he said in his application, was the conduct of the prosecution’s lead lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah after the case was decided. Muhammad Shafee, who is known for his affiliation to the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), the ruling political party headed by Najib, went on a roadshow after Anwar was sent to prison to explain the court’s decision to Malaysians.

For these reasons, Anwar said then he had not received a just hearing.

SEE ALSO: Anwar Ibrahim’s dubious trial

But when considering these assertions today, the judges’ panel disagreed.

According to Malaysiakini, when dismissing the merits of Anwar’s application, Justice Zulkefli said there was no issue of miscarriage of justice regarding the chain of sampling.

He also said there was no merit in Anwar’s claim of bias against Muhammad Shafee. The judge said the appointment of the lawyer was fit and proper and there was no conflict of interest, the news portal wrote in its live reports from court.

Despite the decision, Anwar told reporters in court that the fight was far from over.

“This is not the end of the road… I have pleaded and reiterated my innocence but the judiciary has ignored my please.

“This is a long walk to freedom,” he said, according to Reuters. He was accompanied by his wife, children and grandchildren who turned up to show support for the now noticeably gaunt leader.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia: PM Najib goes for full term as fissures appear in Opposition

Outside the court in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital, a crowd had gathered in anticipation of the outcome of the long drawn out legal battle.

Chua Tian Chang, a leader of the People’s Justice Party (PKR), Anwar’s political platform, read out the decision to the crowd but invoked no response, Malaysiakini reported.

“We are prepared to accept that a corrupt and scandal-riddled regime would not side with the people’s interests.

“Although Anwar would not be released by this judicial system, it is the people who has the power. The power is in our hands. It is us who cede power to the government; it is us who decide.

“Now we must seize this power from Najib and the government leaders. This is our pledge, and we will not back down, we will not stop. We will continue our fight,” he was quoted saying by the news portal.

Anwar’s legal troubles began in 1998 after he was sacked from the Cabinet by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad due to allegations of power abuse and sexual misconduct.

Anwar’s dismissal and subsequent imprisonment for sodomy and graft spurned the creation of the ‘reformasi’ (reformation) movement and the formation of PKR, now the the linchpin of federal opposition pact Pakatan Harapan.

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