Malaysian Supreme Court Overturns Ex Deputy PM’s Sodomy Conviction
The Associated Press,
September 6, 2004
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
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
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
“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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