Malaysia's Anwar hoping for just decision on sodomy charge

AP News
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Posted: Feb 09, 2015 6:51 AM
Malaysia's Anwar hoping for just decision on sodomy charge

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Monday that he is optimistic ahead of a ruling by Malaysia's top court on his final appeal against a sodomy conviction, but that he is ready to be jailed for the second time in just over a decade.

The Federal Court is to announce Tuesday whether it will uphold Anwar's 5-year sentence on charges of sodomizing a male aide. It is his last avenue for appeal, and if the sentence is upheld, he will be immediately sent to prison.

Anwar's case has led to accusations at home and abroad that the government is using it as a weapon to vanquish a threat to its 58-year rule, with the United States and international human rights groups saying the legal moves against Anwar are politically motivated.

Anwar, 67, said he should be acquitted based on the evidence presented in court.

"I hope for a quick, just decision," Anwar said in a phone interview. "I am cautiously optimistic, but I'm also realistic. I know I have to fight."

"It's a small price I have to pay. If I have to go back to jail nearing my 70s, then it's 'que sera sera,'" he said.

Anwar was accused of sodomizing a male aide in 2008, but was acquitted by the High Court in 2012. However, the Appeals Court overturned the acquittal in March last year and sentenced him to five years in jail. He has said the charges were trumped up to kill his political career.

He is the most potent threat to Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose party has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957 but faces declining support.

Anwar previously was imprisoned for six years after being ousted as deputy prime minister in 1998 on earlier charges of sodomizing his former family driver and abusing his power. He was freed in 2004 after Malaysia's top court quashed that sodomy conviction.

Anwar said his jailing for a second time would be toughest on his family, but that they were all very supportive.

Instead of breaking up his three-party alliance, he warned Najib that jailing him could backfire and galvanize more support for the opposition.

"They will continue with or without Anwar. No one is indispensable," Anwar said.

"Authoritarian leaders always believe the best way to deal with dissidents is to jail them, but throughout history, it has always backfired," he said. "If Najib chooses to take this line — I hope not — then he is inviting problems for this country."

Anwar led his alliance to unprecedented gains in 2008 elections and made further inroads in 2013 polls. Najib's National Front coalition won with a slimmer majority and lost the popular vote to the opposition.

Prosecutors are seeking a heavier jail sentence for Anwar.

Sodomy, even consensual, is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.