Last edited: September 19, 2004

Malaysian Supreme Court Overturns Ex Deputy PM’s Sodomy Conviction

The Associated Press, September 6, 2004

Putrajaya, Malaysia—Malaysia’s highest court has overturned the sodomy conviction of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim and freed him from prison, exactly six years after his firing ignited the country’s worst political crisis.

A panel of the Federal Court ruled 2-1 to reverse the conviction against Anwar. He was expected to travel to Germany for surgery to treat a back injury stemming from a police beating in 1998.

Anwar was once considered the heir apparent of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad but Mahathir fired him and touched off widespread political turmoil.

Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi, who succeeded Anwar as Mahathir’s hand-picked heir, had been expected to take a softer line toward Anwar and put the divisive issue behind Malaysia after he took office last year.

Judge Abdul Hamid Mohamad read out the verdict over 10 hours. As it became apparent Anwar, 57, would be freed, the former deputy prime minister—wearing a neck brace and confined to a wheelchair—exchanged excited glances with family members and gave a thumbs-up sign.

“We are not prepared to uphold the conviction,” Abdul Hamid said.

“We therefore allow this appeal and set aside the conviction and the sentence.”

Abdul Hamid said the conviction was flawed because the chief prosecution witness, Azizan Abubakar, repeatedly changed the dates he claimed Anwar had committed homosexual acts with him. Azizan had been the driver for Anwar’s wife.

Hundreds of Anwar supporters cheered outside the court building after the verdict was announced.

The verdict closed the final chapter in Anwar’s struggle against convictions for sodomy and corruption. He insisted the charges were rigged and meant to prevent him from challenging Mahathir—who retired last year—for power in the Southeast Asian country.

Anwar had been jailed since 1998 and had been expected to be in prison for another five years. A separate six-year corruption sentence ran out last year after it was reduced for good behavior.

The verdict followed rumors of behind-the-scenes dealings that Anwar would be freed in exchange for keeping a low profile and temporarily going to Germany, where he has begged to travel for surgery for years, claiming high-quality treatment is unavailable in Malaysia.

Anwar was expected to go from the court building to a hospital, then to the passport office and then to the airport, said his father, Ibrahim Abdulrahman.

Anwar would be flown to Germany from either Bangkok, Thailand, or Singapore on a plane owned by Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, which has offered to pay his medical expenses, Ibrahim said.

Anwar increasingly has been confined to a wheelchair from the injury, blamed partly on a beating inflicted by Malaysia’s then-police chief while Anwar was chained to a cell bed after his arrest Sept. 20, 1998, after leading a massive anti-Mahathir demonstration.

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