Last edited: November 06, 2004

Malaysian Judge Defers Anwar Verdict

Reuters, August 3, 2000

By K. Baranee Krishnaan

KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian judge on Thursday postponed a verdict in the sodomy trial of sacked deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, originally set for Friday, saying it was not yet ready.

The postponement came as Anwar supporters said they planned to defy a police ban and rally in protest if he is convicted.

Police had warned that any gathering would be illegal without authorization and vowed a crackdown. Under Malaysian law, any public assembly of more than five persons requires police approval.

Anwar’s legal team said he was upset with the deferment.

"He said he’s unhappy with the postponement because it is unusual," Sankara Nair, one of Anwar’s lawyers, told Reuters after meeting the former minister in prison.

"‘It was done in the 11th hour and more so, no new date has been given. It only leads to suspicion’," Nair said, quoting Anwar.

High Court Judge Arifin Jaka said in a faxed letter to Nair’s office on Thursday that the verdict in the landmark trial would be postponed, but set no new date.

"‘His Lordship has still not completed his judgement’," Nair said, quoting the letter.

No Government Hand In Decision, Says Minister

The government denied having a hand in the decision.

"It is the court’s prerogative to postpone its decision. We are in no position to decide so," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Syed Albar told reporters.

"What is most important is that we have to maintain law and order, peace and stability so that we do not cause problems for the greater majority of Malaysians," said Syed Hamid, the only cabinet official who reacted to the postponement.

Anwar’s sodomy trial closed in July, 13 months after it began, and was one of the longest criminal cases in Malaysia.

Conviction for sodomy carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and whipping in Malaysia.

Police warned on Thursday they would arrest any pro-Anwar demonstrators at any time.

"Whether the verdict is tomorrow or next week, our warning still applies," city police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Reduan Aslie told Reuters. "Those who group outside the court can be charged for illegal assembly."

Anwar and his adopted brother, Sukma Dermawan, face a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and whipping if convicted on a charge of sodomising their former family driver in 1993.

Anwar, sacked as finance minister and deputy prime minister in September 1998, says Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his associates framed him in a sex scandal to drive him from office and to stave off a possible leadership challenge.

Mahathir has denied the charge.

Anwar has been serving a six-year jail sentence since April last year after being convicted on an abuse of power charge.

Anwar’s sacking in September 1998 and subsequent indictment on allegations of sexual misbehavior have posed the biggest challenge to Mahathir’s 19-years in power.

Anwar was Mahathir’s anointed successor when he was removed.

Thousands took to the streets after Anwar’s ouster in September to demand the resignation of Mahathir.

Anwar’s sacking helped the opposition score major gains against the government in last November’s general elections.

Hours after he was sentenced in April last year, the streets of Kuala Lumpur erupted in protest as his supporters clashed with police who used tear gas, batons and water cannon to disperse them.

[Home] [World] [Malaysia]