Malaysian opposition leader cleared of 'politically motivated' sodomy charges

 

Malaysia's charismatic opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim vowed yesterday to topple the government at elections expected later this year after being acquitted of sodomy charges following a trial widely criticised as politically motivated.

The verdict astonished many Malaysians as well as Mr Anwar, who had been braced for a possible 20-year jail sentence. It was the latest twist in a saga that has seen the reformist politician stage a comeback after being sacked as Deputy Prime Minister and left to languish in prison for six years.

"Thank God, justice has been served," he said, as thousands of his supporters cheered and celebrated outside the Kuala Lumpur court. The mood was briefly dampened when three small explosive devices went off outside the building, injuring five people. It was not clear whether they were linked to the case.

Mr Anwar had accused the Prime Minister, Najib Razak, of concocting the charges of sexual misconduct with a young male aide in order to neutralise him as a political opponent. At elections in 2008, his three-party People's Alliance made unprecedented gains, establishing itself as a threat to the hegemony of Mr Najib's National Front coalition, which has ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

Four months later, he was arrested and charged with forcing the aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, to have sex with him in a city apartment. Homosexual sex is illegal in Malaysia, even between consenting adults.

For Mr Anwar – who claimed he was framed, pointing to evidence that Mr Saiful held a meeting with Mr Najib two days before filing his complaint – it was a case of déjà vu.

Once tipped to succeed Malaysia's long-time Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Mr Anwar fell out with Mr Mahathir in 1998, lost his job and was charged with sodomising his family's driver. Beaten up by in custody, he was released in 2004 after his conviction was overturned. Now Mr Anwar wants to wrest power from Mr Najib. Under his alternative vision for Malaysia, authoritarian laws would be scaled back, corruption stamped out and discrimination against ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians scrapped.

Yesterday's verdict "vindicates Mr Anwar and removes doubts about his personal conduct, which had been a concern, especially among Muslim voters", said Ibrahim Suffian, head of a leading polling firm, the Merdeka Centre.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones