Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has told a Malay court that homosexuals should be discriminated against, despite past comments to the BBC in which he called the country’s sodomy laws archaic and in need of reform.
Ibrahim was appearing in court as part of a defamation action against the Utusan Malaysia newspaper which had run a series of articles in the wake of those comments, which Ibrahim believes defamed his character as being divergent from Islam and unfit to hold office.
When asked by Utusan Malaysia’s counsel if he believed the law should discriminate against homosexuals, Ibrahim was quoted’ by Malaysia’s The Star Online as saying ‘yes.’
‘Some of the archaic laws need to be reviewed [but] we do not promote homosexuality,’ Ibrahim told the court.
‘We Muslims should support the sanctity of marriage [but] we should not punish innocent people.’
Ibrahim had told the BBC in January, ‘We will have to review some of our archaic laws.’
‘We Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia generally believe and are committed to support[ing] the sanctity of marriage between men and women, but we should not be seen to be punitive and consider the archaic law as relevant.’
But Ibrahim said the BBC had been incorrect to interpret this as meaning he would decriminalise homosexuality if elected to government and denied that he believed that the state should not prosecute homosexual activities that occurred in private.
Ibrahim was sentenced to nine years in prison for alleged homosexual activity in what were widely believed to be trumped up charges in 2000, but was acquitted four years later on appeal and released.
Ibrahim was again arrested for allegedly having sex with a male employee in 2008 but was acquitted of those charges as well in January this year.
The newspapers lawyers attempted to argue that, due to these charges, Ibrahim had no reputation to defend but this was not allowed by High Court justice VT Singham.
Ibrahim has accused the newspaper of being a government mouthpiece.