Thursday, February 12, 2015

After Anwar conviction, Bar Council chief says Malaysians live in a strange world

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 — "Glaring anomalies" in the conviction of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy is feeding suspicions that his case was one of political persecution rather than criminal prosecution, Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong said today.

Although acknowledging it was too early to comment on the Federal Court's decision to jail Anwar for five years on a charge of sodomy yesterday, Leong pointed out that Anwar's accuser, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, was not prosecuted despite the decision to prosecute the opposition leader for consensual anal sex.

"It is notable that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was not charged under Section 377C of the Penal Code for forced sodomy or sodomy rape, although there may appear to have been some allegation of coercion made in the proceedings.

"This has also given rise to questions or concerns as to why the complainant, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who was alleged to have been a participant in the act of sodomy, was not charged for abetment under Sections 377A and 377B, read together with Section 109, of the Penal Code," Leong said in a statement today.

The Federal Court that yesterday upheld Anwar's conviction under Section 377A had said that consent was not an ingredient of the offence. Mohd Saiful alleged that he was forced into the act by Anwar in 2008.

Malaysia's apex court also decided that Mohd Saiful was a "credible witness", concurring with both subordinate courts that his testimony was reliable. 

Leong also noted the rarity of prosecution using the laws that criminalise "carnal intercourse against the order of nature", which include both oral and anal sex,

"Given this, it is remarkable that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been prosecuted and convicted twice for an alleged offence of sexual acts between adults wherein the charge does not contain elements of coercion," he added.

"These glaring anomalies fuel a perception that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been persecuted, and not prosecuted."

Anwar's conviction yesterday has invited questions over Malaysia's judicial independence, with US and Australia leading the criticism of the decision to send Anwar to jail over a charge that he vehemently insists is a political ploy to end his career.

Suspicions were fuelled by the timing of a press statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office affirming Malaysia's judicial independence minutes after the Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria announced that Anwar's appeal was rejected and while the court was still in session.

The timing prompted Anwar to excoriate the court for "selling their souls to the devil" and "bowing to the dictates of the political master", in the process becoming "partners in crime for the murder of judicial independence and integrity.

The Federal Court yesterday upheld the Court of Appeal's 2014 ruling that had reversed Anwar's acquittal of sodomising former aide Mohd Saiful, also sentencing him to five years' jail.

Anwar will now lose his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat as the law bars anyone fined over RM2,000 or imprisoned more than one year from serving as a lawmaker.

The decision also leaves the Pakatan Rakyat federal opposition pact without a leader.

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