Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim loses final bid for freedom
Former Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will remain in jail for four more years after the country’s highest court rejected his final bid to overturn the controversial 2014 sodomy conviction.
Anwar, 69, began serving a five-year jail term last year for sodomising a male aide. He had denied the charges. He had filed 35 grounds in his petition of appeal asking the Federal Court to overturn the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
A panel of five judges ruled unanimously that Anwar’s application for a review of his 2014 conviction, his final legal option for an acquittal, was without merit. Chief Judge of Malaya, Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin said the decision was unanimous.
Anwar told reporters later from the dock that he would discuss with his legal team for the next cause of action. “It is not end of the road,” he said. Human Rights Watch called the decision by the Federal Court a “real tragedy for justice in Malaysia”. Anwar was heir-apparent to leadership of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in the late 1990s until his ouster in a power battle with then-leader Mahathir Mohamad. He was jailed in 1998 for six years on sodomy and corruption charges that he also called politically motivated.
Anwar, a former deputy premier, was charged in 2008, months after his opposition scored unprecedented gains in general elections against the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled the country for over five decades.
Sodomy is a crime in Muslim majority Malaysia and is punishable by up to 20 years in jail and whipping. The charges were slapped on him after he had fallout with Mahathir, Malaysia’s prime minister for 22 years.
He was freed in 2004 after spending six years in prison after a court overturned the sodomy conviction. He later became a firebrand opposition leader and led his opposition alliance to an unexpected victory at the hustings in 2008 while the ruling coalition of Barisan Nasional won by a thin margin to retain power.