Last edited: November 06, 2004

Update: Anwar Sodomy Trial

Planet Out, December 21, 1998

A key accuser testifies against the ex-Malaysian #2 man, while one of his alleged victims gets out on bail and denounces his confession, and the reform leader’s wife registers a justice organization.

The trial of Malaysia’s former finance minister and deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, on five counts of sodomy and five of abusing his powers to cover up the alleged sex crimes, has now gone seven weeks and is expected to run another six months. Anwar has pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming they are part of a political smear campaign against him. On December 21, the court heard testimony for about an hour and a half from Ummi Hafilda Ali, the sister of Anwar’s private secretary, Mohamed Azmin Ali.

In an August 1997 letter to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, Ummi had asserted that Anwar had had an adulterous affair with her sister-in-law, Shamsidar Taharin. (Public accusations that Anwar had actually fathered his secretary’s child have already been disproven through blood tests.) Reporters noted that Ummi never looked at Anwar during her testimony, but instead looked at Judge Augustine Paul. She said that her chief reason for writing to Mahathir was to "save" her brother, but her seventh and final reason was "to prevent once and for all the act of unnatural sex of homosexuality which is cursed by Allah."

Ummi testified that her interrogation by police (who have testified they were ordered by Anwar to obtain a retraction) was "harsh" and that she finally wrote a retraction out of fear of being locked up with the general jail population.

According to previous testimony, Ummi had also played a key role in convincing Anwar’s alleged passive sex partner Azizan Abu Bakar (who worked as Anwar’s wife’s driver) to send his statement to Mahathir along with her own. Earlier in the trial, Azizan was briefly the subject of an impeachment hearing after appearing to agree on cross-examination that Anwar had done nothing to him, but it was decided that defense attorneys had simply confused him. Azizan went on to shock the court by declaring that on one day that Anwar had had sex with him, Anwar had also had sex with his own adopted brother, Sukma Darmawan.

Both Sukma and Anwar’s sometime speechwriter Munawar Anees had pleaded guilty to sodomy charges and received 6-month sentences on September 19, but both then appealed on the grounds that their confessions had been coerced by police while they were incarcerated. Sukma was freed on bail of 10,000 ringgit ($2,600US) on December 21. The prosecution in Anwar’s trial claims it has videotape of Sukma’s confession it will introduce into evidence in order to rebut Sukma’s statements of coercion which defense attorneys read into the record. On December 15, the prosecution introduced a mattress supposedly stained with Anwar’s semen (lab tests were not yet completed) from an apartment belonging to the corporation run by Anwar’s former tennis partner, Solaimalai Nallakaruppan (who himself currently faces charges in a separate capital case of illegally possessing ammunition discovered during the investigation of Anwar). The following day, police raided Anwar’s former official residence and seized more mattresses and pillows.

Outside the courts, Anwar’s wife, Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, on December 18 sought to register a new group called the Social Justice Movement or ADIL (for Pergerakan Keadilan Social), which she said was not a political party as had been previously reported. Wan Azizah had also asked the courts to release Anwar in recognition of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of reflection and fasting. On December 18, ADIL issued a statement condemning the U.S./British assault on Iraq.

After increasing friction with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed on international economic issues, Mahathir fired Anwar from the cabinet and from their United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party on September 2, claiming Anwar was morally unfit to take over as prime minister. Anwar led a series of demonstrations by tens of thousands of Malays objecting to cronyism and corruption in the Mahathir government; those demonstrations continued after Anwar’s arrest September 20, but have died out since the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Malaysia last month. The reform movement leader was visibly battered when he was first viewed in court after 10 days’ incarceration eliciting widespread international concern, but a promised government investigation into that beating has yet to be released. The government has promised additional sex-related charges against Anwar when hearings on the current ten have been completed.

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