A Malaysian court Tuesday ordered Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial to start next month, rejecting the opposition leader's bid to scrap a case that he claims is meant to halt his political resurgence.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed Anwar's application to have the case thrown out before it is heard in court, and set the trial date for Jan. 25. The decision deals another blow to Anwar's fluctuating fortunes since he achieved spectacular election results last year.
"I didn't expect anything different," Anwar, 62, told reporters after the ruling by Justice Mohamad Zabidin Diah.
"The manner in which the case is proceeding seems worrying. I think we are in for a tough battle but we have compelling arguments. We have facts."
Anwar was charged in August 2008 with allegedly sodomizing a 24-year-old male former aide. He has denied the charge. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sodomy, a crime in this Muslim-majority country.
Anwar's lawyer, Sankara Nair, said he will appeal Tuesday's decision and may also apply for postponement of the trial, pending a separate appeal to force the prosecution to provide them with medical and camera evidence.
A medical examination of the aide conducted after the alleged sodomy showed no conclusive evidence of penetration. Therefore, Anwar's lawyers argued, trying him for sodomy would be tantamount to abusing the justice system.
Mohamad Zabidin, however, rejected the argument, saying the prosecution might have other witnesses or evidence to prove its case. He also rejected the defense argument that the case was a "malicious prosecution."
It is the second time that Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, has been accused of sodomy. He spent six years in prison between 1998 and 2004 after being convicted of corruption and of sodomizing his former family driver. Anwar insisted he had been framed and was freed when Malaysia's top court overturned the sodomy conviction.
Anwar maintains the new sodomy charge is part of a government conspiracy to undermine his three-party opposition alliance, which made massive gains in March 2008 general elections. Government officials deny any plot against Anwar.
But in the 20 months since the election victory, the opposition alliance has been weakened by infighting over ideological differences as well as gains by the ruling party in a recent by-election.
Anwar's team says the events surrounding the latest accusation are suspicious _ the aide met Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was then the deputy prime minister, a few days before going to hospital to complain he had been sodomized; he also allegedly met a senior police officer in a hotel room the day before going to the hospital.