Last edited: November 06, 2004

Anwar Judgement Coming Aug. 4

PlanetOut, July 18, 2000

SUMMARY: In a dramatic last minute move the reform leader charged with sodomy fired his attorneys to state his case for himself.

The record-breaking 13-month trial for sodomy of Malaysia’s former "prime minister in waiting" Anwar Ibrahim finally drew to a close July 18, but not without one last surprise. Anwar wished to make his own statement to High Court Judge Ariffin Jaka, but Judge Ariffin required him to fire his defense team in order to do so, and that’s what he did July 17. Anwardenounced the top-level political conspiracy he swears is responsible for fabricating the charges against him and asked Judge Ariffin for a fair verdict. When Anwar finished, Judge Ariffin said, "I will judge this case from the evidence, as I perceive it, so don’t worry. I am not easily swayed. Being a Muslim, I am answerable in the next world. Now, my headache starts," he said, as he announced he would deliver his verdict on August 4. Conviction could mean up to 20 years imprisonment for Anwar.


Anwar was Finance Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and heir-apparent to aging Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed — who marked his 19th anniversary in office on July 16 — until their disagreements grew increasingly intense during the regional economic crisis of 1997 - 1998. On September 2, 1998, Mahathir unceremoniously dumped Anwar from his Cabinet posts, and he was booted from his leadership role in the ruling UMNO (United Malays National Organization) party as well. Anwar raised crowds in the tens of thousands denouncing government corruption and cronyism until he was jailed September 20, 1998 as a threat to national security.

Soon thereafter, he received a dangerous beating, which a year later Malaysia’s then-top law enforcement officer Rahim Noor finally admitted to delivering. Then a lengthy trial began on four charges of corruption, actually alleged abuse of his power to cover up alleged sexual misconduct. The handling of that trial caused deep concern among both Malaysian and international observers; it ended in April 1999 with conviction and a six-year sentence for Anwar that effectively put him out of the political picture. However, Anwar had become a symbol for the proponents of "reformasi," who rallied behind his wife Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to double the opposition seats in the parliament in November elections, although that is still far less than the monolithic UMNO.

In June 1999, the current trial began, charging that one night in the period January - March 1993 Anwar and his adopted brother Sukma Dermawan Saasmitaat Madja had forced sex on Anwar’s wife’s former driver Azizan Abu Bakar; before the trial began, prosecutors twice changed the year in which the offense was to have taken place. Sukma stood trial along with Anwar charged both with sodomy himself and with abetting Anwar’s sodomy; because he is under 50, Sukma’s punishment could include whipping with a cane. Azizan’s testimony is essentially the only evidence the prosecution offered, but Anwar claims Azizan was bribed as part of the conspiracy, and even the judge remarked at one point that Azizan’s story appeared to change from day to day. The prosecution maintained that after seven years, Azizan’s "contradictions" proved his evidence "is not fabricated or coached; in fact it makes him more credible."

With 31 witnesses, the defense offered alibis for Anwar for the entire three months and offered some testimony regarding the conspiracy theory, although it has been unable to force Mahathir to testify.

Selections from Anwar’s Statement

Speaking from the dock — Judge Ariffin denying a motion for him to make his statement from the defense table - Anwar said, "My action [dismissing his attorneys] does not in any way question the competence and credibility of my lawyers. They have done such a brilliant job, I can’t think of a better team. They are part of my family. But I have to do this to respond to some matters that have been raised personally against me by the prosecution. I am the accused and the issues, the events, the circumstances are known to me."

"The defense contention has consistently been that of a conspiracy involving the chief himself, the Prime Minister, who was the maestro orchestrating the entire scheme. The instrument of government was unfortunately used and abused. There were political and economic issues involved."

"I’ve contended that there was adequate motive to keep me dismissed and charged and convicted. Top police personnel and the attorney general were acting under the instructions of the Prime Minister." Rahim would not have beaten him "without getting some tacit approval to ‘teach that man a lesson, if possible to finish him.’"Anwar’s "1993 [official] diary was conveniently found missing and that coincided with the charge against me."

"This is a dirty, despicable conspiracy. They want a conviction at all costs. .... That is horrendous and it is a crime."

In the course of Anwar’s statement, Judge Ariffin interrupted several times asking Anwar to focus on the charges and the evidence. He finally barred Anwar from saying any more about the conspiracy at all.

Anwar said, "I did not go to the apartment [where the allegedly sodomy occurred] between January and March 1993. Secondly, I did not commit the offense as alleged. No evidence was ever adduced by the prosecution that I was ever seen at that place. Where are the records? ... It was virtually impossible for me to move without a police escort. Not a single person has testified that he saw me in the apartment. There is fabrication of evidence and the prosecution relying solely on the testimony of Azizan with no corroboration despite the earlier assurance by the Attorney General that they had monitored my movements from 1992 to 1998."


Judge Ariffin actually praised Anwar’s handling of the last two days of his own case, saying, "I think you should take up law. You have done well."

Anwar was allowed to speak to reporters after leaving the courtroom and before being returned to jail. He said, "Based on the evidence, the alibis, the prosecutors have no case. But the conviction is coming through."

One of his attorneys, Christopher Fernando, was more optimistic, saying, "I would be shocked, absolutely shocked, if these two people are convicted. I think the nation would be shocked. The whole world would be shocked. For generations to come, Malaysians will have to live down the shame."

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