Malaysian Court to Review Anwar’s Corruption Conviction
Singapore International, September 7, 2004
In a move that could see former Deputy Prime Minister
Anwar Ibrahim back in Malaysia’s political scene soon, the country’s
Federal Court agreed today to review a 2002 corruption conviction against him.
Anwar was cleared of a sodomy conviction just last week,
after spending nearly six years in prison.
Mr Sankara Nair is Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyer, based in
Kuala Lumpur. He described to Yvonne Gomez the process involved in the review.
SN: There was a preliminary objection by the prosecutor,
and then we submitted on the matter, both parties, and then the court, this
morning, made a ruling that they have jurisdiction to hear this matter, and
that the review can be heard by them. That means we go into the merits.
We’ve started out arguments saying that certain constitutional issues are
applicable in this matter. We’ve just started on constitutional issues,
referring to particular sections of certain laws that govern the
administration of the process, like the giving of judgments and all that.
Why do you think the Federal Court is willing to review
its own decision, made in 2002, now?
SN: Number one, it is not the same quorum – it’s a
different set of judges. Number two, the process is always like that –
there’ll always be a different set of judges, and a different panel will be
constituted. It’s a question of timing here. We’ve put in an application
and that would be due to administrative reasons that they could’ve played
out in two to three years or even in one year. So that’s not really
deliberate or anything. It’s just that they’ve got their order and
How is Anwar’s corruption conviction related to his
SN: We’re not going to bring anything from the sodomy
issue into our review for the corruption conviction that we are now
undergoing. There’s no link. That is based on whatever facts that we felt
were not considered, that there are such extraordinary, or extraneous
circumstances. A review cannot just come in by way of appeal because we’ve
exhausted appeals. As such, for any review, we have to prove and show
extraneous or extraordinary circumstances. That is what we’re trying to do
now. And we have to use issues that we feel involve the first corruption
trial. Only those can be used.
What is going to form the basis of your arguments, in
terms of wanting to overturn the corruption case?
SN: There are a few issues. Some are totally over issues
like gross non-observance of, or misuse or misdirection of evidence, say.
Expunging all evidence…now that is not allowing any defense, which is the
basic fundamental right a mitigant has when he comes to court. This is one of
the issues. The other one is the delivery of the judgment. We felt that it was
not in line with the law. This is serious, because the law is such that, if
there is more than one judgment, and normally there is one judgment, then it
must also be reflected. So we found that in the other case, in the corruption
trial, the judgments delivered were rather odd, and not in line with the law.
So that’s also one of the grounds that we’re using.
How optimistic are you about the Federal Court actually
overturning Anwar’s corruption conviction this time?
SN: The Court, in many cases we’ve come across in the
last couple of months, has reviewed and overturned the decision of the
previous panel. I think, in light of the sodomy appeal, where this was
allowed, we feel that, at least now, we’ll get a fair hearing here.
Speaking of politics, if the conviction does get
overturned, what are Anwar’s future political prospects?
SN: Well, then he’s back to politics immediately, and
when I say that, I mean that he’s able to hold political office and
there’ll be no restrictions or disqualifications at all, which are now
there. Under the constitution – there was an amendment of the Federal
Constitution at some point, that if you are fined above 2000 ringgit or jailed
for any offence, and if you are in politics or are a member of parliament,
there’ll be an automatic disqualification for five years from the date you
complete your sentence. Anwar was cleared from the sodomy conviction, so
therefore the five years don’t apply there. But he was not cleared from the
corruption conviction and the decision was only made in 2003. Therefore, there
are another four years. If this is overturned, then the five-year rule
doesn’t apply to Anwar anymore. From the next day, he’s already free to go
into full-time politics, to hold political positions like party leader, and be
involved in that sort of activity, as well as even stand for elections for
[Home] [World] [Malaysia]