Malaysia’s top court on Tuesday upheld a conviction for sodomy in a controversial case involving opposition leader and one time Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. The White House has said that it is “deeply disappointed” that Malaysia’s top court upheld the opposition leader’s sodomy conviction and sentenced him to five years in prison.
Speaking from the White House, spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan says the ruling against Anwar Ibrahim raises serious concerns about the rule of law and the fairness of Malaysia’s judicial system. Anwar has always denied the charge since his conviction in 2008 and was acquitted in 2012, but an appeals court overturned the verdict last March. His final appeal failed Tuesday after Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria said there was “overwhelming evidence” that the male aide had been sodomized. While at the hearing, Anwar accused the panel of judges of taking part in a “political conspiracy” by Malaysia’s ruling regime.
“In bowing to the dictates of your political masters, you have become partners to the crime.”
Flanked by his wife, children and grandchildren, Anwar arrived smiling and laughing at the court in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s federal administrative center close to the capital Kuala Lumpur. After the verdict, he hugged his weeping wife, Wan Azizah, consoled other relatives and told reporters “see you in some years.” Hundreds of his supporters protested outside. After the verdict, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s office quickly defended what has so far been an extremely controversial trial and sentencing.
“Malaysia has an independent judiciary, and there have been many rulings against senior government figures. Exhaustive and comprehensive due process is now complete, and we call on all parties involved to respect the legal process and the judgment.”
Anwar was a popular but divisive politician and united fractious opposition groups to challenge the ruling UMNO party’s six-decade-long domination of national politics. In 2013, he won the popular vote in national elections, but not a majority of seats in parliament. The conviction Tuesday disqualifies him from office and prevents him from standing in the next national elections, due by 2018.
Phil Robertson, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, also weighed in on the verdict, speaking about how upholding this conviction, as well as the conviction itself, was a “travesty.”
“Allowing this travesty of justice to stand will further undermine respect for rights and democracy in Malaysia.”
The news comes not long after Malaysia chose to ban the screening of Fifty Shades of Grey due to the Malaysian film board claiming that the movie contains inappropriate sexual content.
“The board made a decision in view of the film containing scenes that are not of natural sexual content. The content is more sadistic, featuring scenes of a woman being tied to a bed and whipped.”
[Image via Slate]