Last edited: December 17, 2004

Malaysian Court to Review Anwar’s Corruption Conviction

Radio 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 schedules.

How is Anwar’s corruption conviction related to his sodomy conviction?

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 public office.

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