Lawyers for Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial will be allowed to interview the country's prime minister as a potential witness, Malaysia's High Court ruled Monday.
Anwar had been expected to testify this week for the first time to rebut charges that he sodomized Saiful Bukhari Azlan, a 26-year-old male former aide, in 2008. The hearing was delayed until Aug. 15 to allow the defense time to interview 20 people, including Prime Minister Najib Razak, to determine whether to call them to testify
Anwar claims the government fabricated the sodomy charge that could send him to prison for 20 years. Najib has denied any conspiracy.
The trial has become a distraction for Anwar as he prepares his opposition alliance for general elections widely expected by early 2012. Najib's ruling coalition is working to regain at least a two-thirds parliamentary majority and recapture several states that Anwar's alliance wrested in 2008 polls.
The potential witnesses include Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor and the former national police chief Musa Hassan. Saiful had testified in court that he met with Najib shortly before June 26, 2008, the day he says he was sodomized on by Anwar.
However, prosecutors have indicated that even though the prime minister and his wife will likely have to meet with Anwar's lawyers this week, they won't answer any of the defense's questions in private unless they are summoned to the witness stand for public testimony.
Anwar nevertheless said he welcomed the court's move to allow his team to interview the witnesses.
"I don't believe we have had a fair trial so far, but it gives us an avenue to interview the key witnesses," Anwar told reporters.
His lawyer Sankara Nair said the defense team will interview Musa and another senior police official on Tuesday.