A Malaysian appeals court has found opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim guilty of sodomy and sentenced him to five years jail, opening authorities in Kuala Lumpur to international ridicule for prolonging their political case against him. un“You have got want you wanted,” Anwar shouted to the judges of the Kuala Lumpur Court of Appeal after the unanimous verdict.Anwar’s lawyers immediately declared they would appeal the verdict.Judges said they would allow bail of 10,000 Malaysian ringgit (AUD$2,973).The shock decision came amid a move for 66-year-old Anwar to become the powerful chief minister of Selangor state, the country’s main economic hub surrounding Kuala Lumpur.He had been preparing to contest a by-election in the state on March 23 and was expected to win.The conviction is expected to bar Anwar from running for the seat, analysts said.After the verdict was announced Mr Anwar’s 61 year-old wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, a leading opposition politician, wept in the packed court room and supporters chanted “reformation” and “free Anwar.”Police had to restrain angry supporters outside the court.Earlier Anwar told reporters that there was “absolutely no case” for him to answer and “this is clearly seen to be political.”The decision will inflame political tensions in the country eight months after disputed general elections.Human rights groups accuse Malaysia’s government of using an anachronistic colonial era law that criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” to persecute Anwar, a former finance minister and deputy prime minister.Under the law Anwar could have been jailed for up to 20 years.Anwar has been a potent threat to the Barisan Nasional coalition led by Prime Minister Najib Razak which has ruled the country since its independence from Britain in 1957.His three-party opposition has made deep inroads into the ruling party’s parliamentary majority in the past two national elections.Anwar was arrested in 2008 on charges of having intercourse with an aide.He had already spent six years in prison on sodomy and corruption charges after he was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 and lost his status as heir apparent to then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.He was found guilty of the 2008 charge but after a long series of delays the High Court in January 2012 acquitted him after a judge found that crucial DNA evidence submitted by the prosecution may have been compromised.Human rights groups condemned the decision by prosecutors to launch an appeal against the acquittal.This was the fourth time Anwar had been charged under the 1938 sodomy law that the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner has ruled violates rights to privacy and non-discrimination.Anwar’s defence at the appeal’s hearing was set-back in recent weeks when his lawyers failed in three attempts to disqualify the lead prosecutor, Shafee Abdullah, arguing he had strong links to the ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).Mr Shafee told the appeal judges the lower court judge had erred in freeing Anwar.“The appeal has got to be allowed. The respondent must be found guilty,” he said.Phil Robertson, Deputy Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch said “this was a politically-motivated trial that was all about knocking Anwar Ibrahim out of politics and the government was prepared to do whatever it took to make that happen.”“Anwar and his family appear caught in a never-ending nightmare of his political adversaries’ making, with the courts as the instrument of his political execution,” Mr Robertson said.“It’s truly a dark day for the Malaysia judiciary which has shown itself incapable of standing up straight when national political issues are in play in cases before them,” he said.Mr Robertson said the crime that Anwar is accused of should never have been considered a crime in the first place.
A Malaysian government spokesperson said “Malaysia has an independent judiciary and the judges will have reached their verdict only after considering all the evidence in a balanced and objective manner.”
“This is a case between two individuals and is a matter for the courts, not the government,” the spokesperson said.
“Therefore, to respect the legal process and the rights of those involved, it would be inappropriate for the government to comment further.”