The Anwar Ibrahim Trial: A Discredited Government’s Attempts to Persecute Opponent with Archaic Sodomy Laws

While the trial of Anwar Ibrahim on the charge of sodomy has drawn international concerns about whether he will be given a fair trial, the government-controlled media has today begun their “trial by media” in the same way they did over Sodomy trial #1. They have given headline prominence to the accuser’s allegations in an attempt to besmirch Anwar’s reputation and integrity.

While the trial of Anwar Ibrahim on the charge of sodomy has drawn international concerns about whether he will be given a fair trial, the government-controlled media has today begun their “trial by media” in the same way they did over Sodomy trial #1. They have given headline prominence to the accuser’s allegations in an attempt to besmirch Anwar’s reputation and integrity.

In a repeat of the trial of Anwar 12 years ago on charges of corruption and sodomy, the latest trial bears the characteristic political persecution of the leader of the Opposition who has since the general elections of 2008, posed the biggest challenge to the ruling regime since Independence.

The way the trial has progressed clearly shows that Anwar has been denied a fair trial. Even before the trial began, the prosecution has refused to deliver evidence to the defence which is fundamental to ensuring a fair trial. Consequently, SUARAM does not believe that the current trial of Anwar will be in any manner fair and just.

The focus of the government-controlled media in playing up the testimony of Mohd Saiful at the High Court yesterday is clearly an attempt to discredit and cast doubts in the minds of the public over the morals of the former deputy prime minister.

While issues surrounding the question of a fair trial have drawn national and international concerns, another serious human rights violation surrounding the criminal charge on Anwar is the use of the archaic sodomy law of the country against him. All over the world, including countries in Asia, antiquated laws on sodomy are being abolished. On 2 July 2009, the Delhi High Court delivered a historic judgement to amend a 149-year-old colonial-era law and forthwith decriminalised private consensual sex between adults of the same sex. India became the 127th country to decriminalise homosexuality.

It is a shame that a country like Malaysia, which has in the past chaired the UN Commission on Human Rights and has been a recent member of the UN Human Rights Council, not only continues to maintain such archaic laws criminalising homosexuality but also uses it in a politically-motivated trial to discredit and neutralise a political challenger. The Barisan Nasional government’s continued pursuance of the political trial of Anwar Ibrahim and the farcical manner in which the trial progresses will doubtless discredit Malaysia in the eyes of the international community.

SUARAM strongly urges the government to drop its charges on Anwar and further calls for the abolition of our outdated sodomy laws. SUARAM further calls on the Malaysian media to be responsible in reporting the trial and not make this a parallel “trial by media”.

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John Liu