Malaysia’s top court today (10 February) upheld opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction for sodomy, which is illegal in the Muslim-majority.
Federal Court judge Arifin Zakat said there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ that the former deputy prime minister had sodomized a male aide, and defense allegations that the case was a political conspiracy were ‘unsubstantiated by any facts whatsoever.’
Anwar, 67, was accused of sodomizing his aide Saiful in 2008 but was acquitted by the High Court in 2012. The Appeals Court overturned the acquittal in March last year and handed down a five-year sentence, which he was appealing.
In 1998, Anwar was jailed for six years on earlier charges of sodomizing his former family driver. He was freed in 2004 after the Federal Court quashed that sodomy conviction.
Critics at home and abroad have accused the Malaysian government of falsifying the sodomy charges against Anwar to end his political career, a move that has also reinforced stigma against the country’s LGBTI community.
Gay sex, even consensual, is a crime in Malaysia and punishable by up to 20 years in jail.
Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the court in the administrative capital Putrajaya, shouting ‘reform’ and ‘free Anwar.’
The government released the following statement after the verdict denying any ulterior motives in the case.
‘The judges will have reached their verdict only after considering all the evidence in a balanced and objective manner. Malaysia has an independent judiciary, and there have been many rulings against senior government figures.
‘The police report against Anwar Ibrahim was brought by a private individual –Anwar’s employee and personal assistant – not by the government. As the victim of a serious sexual assault, he had every right to have his case heard in court.
‘In this case, exhaustive and comprehensive due process has been followed over many years. That process is now complete, and we call on all parties involved to respect the legal process and the judgment.’