A Malaysian businessman and two former government politicians were fined by a court Friday for publicly screening a video allegedly showing opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim having sex with a prostitute.
Businessman Shazryl Eskay Abdullah and Shuib Lazim pleaded guilty in a magistrate court to possessing and distributing pornography when they showed the video to a group of journalists at a hotel on March 21. Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik pleaded guilty to abetting them.
Anwar, who is currently on trial on charges he sodomized a male former aide, has denied he was the man seen in the video. The trio has said the video was made at a Kuala Lumpur hotel on the night of Feb. 21, but Anwar insists he was home with his family.
The 63-year-old politician, married with six children, claims the sodomy charge and video are government fabrications to undermine his opposition alliance, but officials deny any conspiracy.
In mitigation arguments, defense lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the motive of the accused was to expose the hypocrisy of a leader who could one day become Malaysia's prime minister. He said an American video expert consulted by Malaysian police also agreed the man in the tape resembled Anwar.
"The accused have merely committed a minor offense in the bid to expose a bigger offense, and perhaps the biggest fraud ever," Shafee told the court.
The court later imposed a fine of 3,000 ringgit ($989) on Shazryl, 1,500 ringgit ($495) on Shuib and 1,000 ringgit ($330) on Abdul Rahim. They could have been sentenced to up to three years in jail.
Anwar lost his post as deputy premier in 1998 after being charged with sodomizing his family's ex-driver and trying to cover up his actions _ both of which he denied. He was convicted and spent six years in jail before being freed in 2004 after a court quashed the conviction.
He then led a three-member opposition alliance to unprecedented gains in 2008 elections.
Anwar now faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted again of sodomy, a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia.