Anwar Acquitted

In a surprise move, Malaysia’s high court has acquitted opposition lawmaker Anwar Ibrahim in a sodomy case.

Luke Hunt

Women and children cried, thousands cheered and at least three bombs were detonated into the mix. It was a stunning day at Malaysia’s High Court, where Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah acquitted the country’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy charges and set him free.

Anwar was convinced he would go to jail, having packed accordingly. He, along with his enormous support base, have claimed the charge, initiated after his Parti Keadilan Rakyat scored its biggest success yet at the 2008 election, were solely politically motivated. He faced similar charges 14 years ago and spent six years behind bars before a conviction for sodomizing his wife’s driver was overturned. The latest charge beggars belief given the court found no corroborating evidence, considered a must when dealing with sexual allegations in Malaysia.

The verdict was hailed by Human Rights Watch, which said, “The case against Anwar was politically motivated and plagued with irregularities.”

“During the trial, the prosecution refused to turn over key evidence as required by the Malaysian criminal procedure code, including its witness list and witness statements, notes by the doctors who examined Saiful at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, pharmacists’ worksheets and notes on DNA testing and analysis, and closed-circuit television recordings from the condominium guardhouse where the alleged sodomy took place.”

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Anwar was understandably relieved, and struggled to speak as photographers and journalists vied for a picture and a quote. Azmin Ali, vice president of PKR, was eloquent, saying justice was served by the verdict and that this had sent a powerful message to Malaysia and the world.

“We have been saying from day one that Anwar Ibrahim is innocent. I have been working with him for the last 30 years, he is innocent, he is a noble person,” Azmin said.

“He has been charged, we went through the process we produced evidence and credible witnesses all throughout the proceedings and today the truth revealed.”

Anwar says immediate business concerns the prospects of an early election and a showdown with Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has promised to win back the electoral ground lost in 2008. He has also promised sweeping political and economic reforms designed to win over his party’s critics.

The emphasis, Anwar said, was on ensuring the next poll is “free and fair.”

One would hope so, but one unexplained mystery remains. Who was responsible for the three homemade bombs? Filled with ball bearings and shards of metal, two were detonated from under police nose cones and third from inside a rubbish bin outside of the court.

The explosion was loud and five people were taken to hospital as a result. At the time of writing, no one had been arrested, leaving the many thousands at the scene to wonder where the political motivation in Malaysia truly lies.