Anwar Sodomy Testimony Halted
SUMMARY: Although the appeal on the Prime Ministers subpoena
is still pending, the judge wouldnt wait to close Maylasian reformers
The long-running sodomy trial of Malaysias former Finance Minister and Deputy
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is nearing its conclusion, as testimony ended June 21 at the
judges order. The defense will submit its closing arguments in writing by July 1,
the prosecution will respond two days later, and the defenses final statement will
be due July 6; no date has been set for a verdict. Conviction could mean up to 20
years imprisonment. Anwar, 52, a married father of six who once had a reputation not
only as an observant Muslim but a rather ascetic man, continues to maintain that this and
other charges against him were all fabricated as part of a high-level political plot. His
wife, pediatrician and now opposition political leader Dr. Wan Azizah Ismail, told the
Associated Press she believes the trial was abruptly terminated to get Anwar out of the
Anwar was dumped from his Cabinet posts and his leadership role in the ruling UMNO
party early in September 1998 after several years of being the apparent successor to aging
Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed. He was arrested soon after when his calls for reform
of government corruption drew tens of thousands to rallies (in many cases violently
dispersed by police) and sparked a new level of dissent that continued through the recent
elections. Hes been imprisoned since September 20, 1998, a term which began with a
dangerous beating at the hands of the man who was then Malaysias top law enforcement
official. Anwars first trial on four charges of corruption charges made for
alleged attempts to cover up the alleged sexual misconduct was the longest in
Malaysias history until his current trial. It resulted in April 1999 in a six-year
prison sentence for Anwar, as well as international protest at the conduct of the trial.
The current trial began June 21, 1999, with Anwar accused of having sex with his
wifes male former chauffeur, and there could well be still more charges brought
against him. Before the trial even began, the prosecution twice changed the year in which
the alleged sexual assault occurred. The trial has featured numerous delays, so that more
than a year of calendar days has included only 108 actual days in court.
Anwar has so far been blocked in attempts to bring Mahathir himself to testify. A
further appeal on the prime ministers testimony is pending, but Judge Arifin Jaka
refused to wait for its outcome, although he said that examination of witnesses could be
reopened if Anwar prevails in the Federal Court. Had Mahathir complied with the subpoena,
Anwars defense would have called three other witnesses as well.
One of the last of Anwars more than 30 defense witnesses was attorney Manjeet
Singh Dhillon, who previously defended two of Anwars former associates, many of whom
were arrested near the time of Anwars arrest. Manjeet testified on June 13 that in
1998 the lead prosecutor in both of Anwars trials, Abdul Gani Patail, had asked him
to "create evidence" to frame Anwar, and dropped Mahathirs name in the
process. Gani himself was absent from the courtroom during this testimony.
Being tried alongside Anwar is his adopted brother Sukma Darmawan Saasmitaat Madja,
accused of joining Anwar in sodomizing driver Azizan Abu Bakar. Along with the 20-year
prison sentence, Sukma could also face whipping with a cane, a punishment which Agence
France Presse says is waived for those who, like Anwar, are over 50 years old.
The Anwar saga is an epic one with a huge cast of remarkable characters and important
connections with both Malaysian politics and international finance.
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