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Ahad, 21 Jun 2009

Anwar wants ‘political’ sodomy charge dropped

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday said a sodomy charge against him should be dropped because it was a “political ploy” but vowed to fight hard in court to clear his name.
In an interview with AFP, Anwar said false evidence would be introduced during the trial in a bid to put him in jail and end his political career.
“The worst case scenario is to deny me bail and have a quick conviction,” he told AFP, ahead of the trial due to start on July 1 and planned to last a month.
“It’s a convenient way for UMNO to get rid of me to settle their political problem,” he said, referring to the United Malays National Organisation which is the dominant party in the ruling National Front coalition.
Anwar, 61, has consistently rejected the allegations levelled by a 23-year-old former aide — the same charge that saw him jailed a decade ago — as a government conspiracy to derail his plan to topple the ruling coalition.
Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is illegal in predominantly Muslim Malaysia and carries a penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.
A conviction would likely end the political career of the 61-year-old Anwar who has the best chance of ousting the weak National Front government that has ruled Malaysia since 1957.
The opposition leader is currently out on a 20,000 ringgit bail (5,700 dollars) pending his trial but supporters have expressed fears that his bail might be revoked during the hearing.
In a pre-emptive move on Wednesday Anwar applied to the court to strike out the sodomy charge, on the grounds that two medical examinations of his accuser had found no signs of sodomy.
“You can’t proceed with the sodomy case when it is quite clear by the team of doctors… the medical experts that there is no trace of sodomy, so why do they proceed, except it is going to become a political ploy,” he said.
He vowed to put up a tough fight and would not dismiss the possibility of his supporters taking to the streets.
But Anwar said the party would exercise “peaceful means” to voice their protests if he was jailed.
“We will fight and I am now better prepared, unlike 1998, because it came as a surprise and nobody anticipated the ruthlessness of their manner,” he said.
Anwar said he was ready to meet his accuser, who has kept a low profile since claiming he was sodomised by Anwar last June, face to face in court when the 23-year-old is expected to take the stand and testify against Anwar.
“I don’t have a problem with that. The issue is whether he should be ready with all the evidence against him, particularly the medical evidence,” said the opposition leader.
Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, was sacked in 1998 and jailed for sodomy and corruption.
In 2004 Malaysia’s highest court overturned the sodomy conviction, allowing Anwar to go free after six years in jail and paving the way for his return to politics.
Under Anwar’s leadership, the opposition last year dealt the ruling coalition its worst electoral setback yet but fell short of the numbers needed to form a new government.
Anwar also won a landslide victory in a by-election last August that allowed him to return to parliament, but he has so far failed in his bid to topple the federal government after key political defections he had hoped for did not materialise.
The opposition parties, which have differences in their ideologies, would not fall apart if he was jailed, Anwar said.
“The opposition is mindful of this fact (that I might be jailed) and have taken adequate measures,” he added

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