02 February, 2010

Anwar on trial for a second time on charges of sodomy.

Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's opposition leader, is set to go on trial for a second time on charges of sodomy.

The high-profile trial today at the Kuala Lumpur high court, has placed the judiciary under scrutiny again after Anwar's conviction for the same offence almost a decade ago was eventually overturned.

If found guilty of sodomising his former aide, Anwar could be jailed for 20 years, in effect ending his political career.

The 62-year-old Anwar has repeatedly denounced the trial, saying it is aimed at ending his challenge to the government.

During more than three decades in Malaysian politics, Anwar Ibrahim has spent a good share of his time behind bars — from his detention during his days as a rabble-rousing student leader in the 1970s to his imprisonment a decade ago for sodomy and abuse of power.

Although the accuser is new this time, but the charge, once again, is sodomy. A conviction this time could end the career of Anwar, who is 62, and reshape Malaysian politics.

For Malaysia’s nearly 26 million people, the trial is the latest chapter in the bitter struggle for power between the governing coalition, which has held power since independence from Britain more than five decades ago, and the diverse but ascendant opposition parties.

The new trial is likely to divert attention from the country’s real and worrisome problems of communal tensions and economic weaknesses. Churches and mosques have been attacked in recent weeks over the issue of whether non-Muslims should be allowed to use the word “Allah” for God.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Anwar blamed "the machinations of the dirty, corrupt few" and accused Najib Abdul Razak, the prime minister, and the premier's wife Rosmah Mansor, of being responsible for the trial.

"They were personally involved in this conspiracy and frame-up. We have evidence that Saiful Bukhari was in the house with Rosmah and met Najib a few days before he lodged the police report," Anwar said.


He added that his defence team planned to call the prime minister and his wife as witnesses.

Najib, who was deputy prime minister at the time, has acknowledged Saiful visited him but says it was in connection with a university scholarship.

The government has denied any interference and has promised that Anwar will receive a fair trial.

KL High Court has quashed an application for a stay sought by Anwar this afternoon, saying that there were no special circumstances to grant the stay and ordered for the trial to proceed.

The defence team intended to discuss a possible review of Anwar's failed bid at the Federal Court last Friday to seek an order which will allow him access to certain documents deemed crucial to his defence.

Could Sodomy Charges Be the End of Malaysia's Opposition?

Anwar has dominated the politics of Malaysia for over four decades — first as a student leader in the 1970s and then as a rising minister in the government of Mahathir Mohamad. Eventually, as a powerful and charismatic deputy prime minister, Anwar was poised to unseat Mahathir and take the reigns of government, when he was cut down in the fallout over how to tackle the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. As a prisoner, Anwar continued to influence national politics, turning his plight into a global cause, forming a multi-racial political party, and putting together an opposition coalition — all from behind the bars.

And though he is no stranger to scandal, this trial, many say, may well be terminal for Anwar's ambition to become prime minister, derailing his sterling comeback and damaging the chances of the multi-ethnic, broadly secular Pakatan Rakyat coalition he leads. "In short this is a make-or-break event for Anwar," political scientist Sivamurugan Pandyan told TIME. "Everything is at stake ... his ambitions to become prime minister, his political career, the future of his Pakatan Rakyat. It's over for Anwar if he is found guilty and jailed even a few years."

Since Saiful publicly accused his former boss of sexual misconduct, the growing momentum that Anwar had enjoyed in the aftermath of the 2008 general election victories, in which his coalition won five states and took 82-seats in the 222-seat parliament, has been gradually dissipating. The Pakatan Rakyat coalition formed in that cycle has been hit by defections, internal squabbles and major differences over how to treat Islam, Malay special privileges and more recently the Allah issue.

The differences are shattering unity in the coalition. On his part, Prime Minister Najib, who still enjoys majority Malay support, is on a major charm offensive to steal away the minority Chinese and Indian voters — who together are 35% of the electorate of 13.7 million voters — that had supported Anwar in 2008. "Najib is winning hearts and minds of the people with his 'OneMalaysia' campaign," said Pandyan, referring to Najib's 'We are OneMalaysia' campaign, a platform based on mending the nation's fractured race relations.


Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1958251,00.html#ixzz0eNOgV48K


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