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Malaysia's Anwar acquitted of sodomy on uncorroborated evidence

(Xinhua)

15:28, January 09, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 9 (Xinhua) - A Malaysian high court acquitted Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy crime, capping almost two-year-long trial proceedings.

The Kuala Lumpur high court judge Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah said the container holding the DNA evidence is compromised.

He said the court cannot convict Anwar based on uncorroborated evidence in a criminal offense.

Sodomy, consensual or not, is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

The 64-year-old former deputy prime minister was charged with sodomizing his 26-year-old former assistant, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan at a condominium unit in Kuala Lumpur in June 2008.

The trial started on February 3 in 2010.

"I am grateful of the verdict," Anwar told reporters.

He was accompanied by his wife and all six children.

"However it is too early to celebrate because the prosecution may appeal the decision. Nonetheless I will fight on against the injustice and the system that suppresses the people," he said.

Anwar has repeatedly said that the charge was set up to destroy his political career, a claim prime minister Najib Razak denied.

An estimated of about 4,500 emotional supporters of Anwar rallied outside the courthouse, chanting "reformation" and "long live the people" while holding pro-Anwar placards as he exited the courthouse.

The police gave green light to the rally and allowed them to assemble at a parking lot in front of the court complex although they had initially declared it illegal.

Although acquitted, Anwar had already been charged twice with sodomy.

In 1998, he was dismissed as a deputy prime minister and sent to the prison a year later over sodomy and corruption.

He was released in September 2004 and resumed his political career as an opposition chief, leading the opposition parties in winning five states in Malaysia's 2008 election.

"The Malaysia judiciary has spoken. It has been heard and we must respect the decision. The verdict of a case such as the one we encountered is a testy decision," Malaysia's Information Minister Rais Yatim said.

"We are glad that we have come to finality and determination by the court despite the record-breaking delay. We can now look forward to Malaysia's promising days ahead and create another positive chapter," he added.

He said the trial was dragged for almost two years due to the numerous "procedural objections" filed by the defense.

"A lot of public concern poured on it, we have spent in public expenses in this delay, we could have done otherwise. The justice was delayed is normally justice denied. But in this case, the delay wasn't at the instance of the prosecution it is at the instance of the other side," Rais said.

Deputy public prosecutor, Noreen Badaruddin said her team would consult the attorney general on whether the prosecution would appeal within the next 10 days.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan, political analyst from independent research group Ideas said Anwar's acquittal emboldens the opposition, the Pakatan Rakyat or People's Alliance.

"The fact that Anwar is out there, Pakatan Rakyat is able to focus more on their policies and reform strategies as it is no longer faced with issue finding the right candidate to replace Anwar," Wan Saiful said.

But he said the Pakatan may risk eating their own words as the judiciary they have been attacking is "suddenly on their side."

"Pakatan has been arguing that the judiciary can't be trusted. Would they change their mind to say the judge is trustworthy now?"

"But it is too early to tell because we never know what will happen in the next 10 days. The attorney general can appeal and there is no certainty that Anwar would be free," he added.

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