Malaysia court setback for Anwar

2010-04-14 18:10

Kuala Lumpur - An Islamic court on Wednesday threw out a bid by Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to bring a slander charge against his former aide who accuses him of sodomy.

The verdict marks a setback in Anwar's efforts to discredit Saiful Bukhari Azlan, aged 24, who has accused the politician of forcing him to have anal sex. Sodomy is a crime that carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years in prison in the Muslim-majority country.

Anwar is on trial for sodomy in a civil court in what he claims is a political conspiracy orchestrated by Prime Minister Najib Razak to undermine Anwar's opposition alliance, which hopes to win power in national elections scheduled to be held by 2013. Najib has denied plotting against Anwar.

Anwar had filed a separate application in the Islamic Shari'ah High Court to have Saiful charged with making false allegations because he failed to produce four credible male witnesses to back his claim, as generally required by Islamic law for anyone who makes accusations of unlawful sex.

The court dismissed Anwar's application on Wednesday, saying it has no authority to compel government prosecutors to charge Saiful with any offense, said Anwar's lawyer, Kamar Ainah Kamaruzaman.

A verdict in Anwar's favour would not have been able to derail his sodomy trial in the civil High Court. But Anwar had hoped that if Saiful could be charged with making false allegations, it would severely weaken the case against him.

Anwar's trial in the High Court began in February with testimony from Saiful, who alleged that Anwar forced him to have anal sex at a condominium in June 2008. The trial has since been postponed until May.

It is the second time that 62-year-old Anwar has been accused of sodomy. In 1998, he lost his post as then-deputy prime minister and spent six years in jail on convictions for sodomy and abuse of power. Anwar was freed in 2004 when a court overturned the sodomy conviction and led a three-party opposition alliance to major gains in elections two years ago.