News24

Anwar drops fight against judge

2010-03-16 11:03

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim decided on Tuesday not to seek the dismissal of his sodomy trial judge, hoping to dispel criticism he was delaying the politically charged case.

The trial is expected to resume soon now that Anwar has withdrawn an appeal against a decision by Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah to continue to preside over the case. The judge had refused to recuse himself, dismissing Anwar's allegations that he was biased.

Anwar's lawyer, Sankara Nair, said that the defense didn't want to be accused of delaying the trial.

"We want to go on with the trial expeditiously," he said, rather than face a long appeals process.

Anwar, who stands accused of having sex with a former 24-year-old male aide, claims the charge is politically motivated to hurt him and his resurgent opposition. Sodomy is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia, carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Anwar said he did not think he would get a fair trial - no matter who presided over it - in what he claims is a pro-government judiciary.

"Notwithstanding our position, so far, the courts and judicial system has not changed," he told reporters. "I don't think the matter of changing judges will alter the system."

Sodomy and corruption

Anwar had accused Mohamad Zabidin of bias last month, citing his refusal to take action against a newspaper owned by the ruling party that published an allegedly misleading headline and photograph about the trial.

Mohamad Zabidin is expected to reconvene the court on March 25 to set a date for the trial to resume.

It is the second time Anwar, 62, has faced sodomy charges. He has maintained his innocence and claims the accusations have been politically motivated.

In 1998, a court convicted him of sodomy and corruption after Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, had a fallout with then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Anwar spent six years in jail before the sodomy conviction was overturned.

After his release, he led an opposition alliance to win an unprecedented number of seats in general elections in 2008, threatening the ruling coalition's 50-year hold on power.

Anwar claims Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah, are behind the latest sodomy charges to end his aspirations of becoming prime minister. Najib has denied the allegations.