Anwar loses appeal against sodomy conviction
MALAYSIAN opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim began his third stint in prison, after he lost his appeal against his sodomy conviction, leaving his three-party alliance in tatters and his own political future in serious doubt.
Yesterday, the Federal Court upheld the five-year jail term and a five-year ban on politics for the 67-year-old.
Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria dismissed Anwar's challenge against last year's conviction for sodomising former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, saying that the court found "overwhelming evidence" of the crime.
Anwar said his conviction was "a political conspiracy".
Allowed to speak after the arguments on sentencing, a defiant Anwar lashed out at the judges, calling them "partners in crime".
"You have sold your souls to the devil," he said.
As the judges left the court, he continued his tirade: "I will not be silenced...I will never surrender."
His supporters responded by shouting "Allahuakbar!" (God is Great). Later, as Anwar was led out of the courtroom, they chanted "Reformasi", the clarion call of the movement that arose from his sacking as deputy prime minister in 1998 and led to mass protests against the government.
"What's new?" Anwar said after the verdict, as he embraced weeping family members and supporters.
"It's a day of infamy. It's a shocking decision," senior opposition parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang said.
Anwar might not emerge from prison until the age of 72 if he serves the full term. He is also stripped of his Parliament seat and disqualified from running in the next elections, due by 2018.
Anwar had been the face and unifying force of Pakatan Rakyat - an alliance of three ideologically disparate parties - which denied the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition its two-thirds parliamentary majority in the 2008 general election. But weeks later, Mr Saiful accused his boss of sodomy.
In 2012, the High Court found Anwar not guilty. The prosecution appealed, and the Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal last year.
Human rights groups and agencies criticised the court's latest decision.
The United Nations Human Rights office said it was "disappointed", while Human Rights Watch called the ruling a "travesty of justice", and Amnesty International said it "will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression".
The office of Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement that "the judges will have reached their verdict only after considering all the evidence in a balanced and objective manner".
Mr Saiful wrote in a blog post that he felt vindicated.
"From the beginning, seven years ago, what I wanted as a complainant and citizen of this country is that my allegation over Anwar Ibrahim's acts on me be investigated and justice served, nothing more," he said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE STRAITS TIMES