The independence of the highest court of the land – the Federal Court – will once again be tested in the judgment of the court on the sodomy charge against opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, for the second time on 28 and 29 October 2014. The Federal Court must right the wrongs and deliver justice if its credibility and reputation in the eyes of the public is to be maintained.
The Court of Appeal’s decision on 7 March 2014 to overturn the High Court decision to acquit Anwar of sodomy offence under Section 377 of the Penal Code was extremely disappointing and exasperating, marking a new low for Malaysia’s justice system. The appellate court found Anwar guilty of sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan on 26 June 2008 and sentenced Anwar to five years’ imprisonment.
Anwar’s conviction has been stayed during his appeal to the Federal Court, but if convicted he will serve a total of 5 years jail time, effectively losing his Permatang Pauh Parliamentary seat and position as the parliamentary opposition leader, and hence forth ending his political career.
The verdict is not just about Anwar’s political ambition but the manner in which the entire trial was conducted, broke every known fair trial standards governed by law and it exemplifies the frailty of our criminal justice system.
The Court of Appeal’s trial was brought forward abruptly and conducted in a hasty manner to have Anwar convicted and sentenced in mere two days, and subsequently disqualifying Anwar from the Kajang by-election held on 23 March 2014. Such uncommon proceeding evidently showed that this was a politically motivated prosecution to eliminate one of the most influential opposition leader in the country.
Anwar and his legal team have always maintained that the charges were trumped up & fabricated. During the trial, serious questions that impinged on fair trial standards were raised including – the complainant’s meeting with the Prime Minister and senior officials before the alleged incident; tampering of evidence including planting of DNA evidence, medical report of the complainant that showed no penetration etc.
In addition, the Federal Court has rejected Anwar’s motion to disqualify Muhammad Shafee Abdullah from the prosecution team and held that Shafee, a lawyer closely related to UMNO, was a ‘fit and proper person’ to lead the prosecution, despite apparent unsuitability and conflict of interest.
The ruling government’s unrelenting intimidation campaign against Anwar is also extended beyond the sodomy case. Anwar’s key lawyer, N. Surendran was charged under the Sedition act 1948 twice for mere criticism of the Court of Appeal’s judgment on the sodomy case in September 2014. A month after Surendran’s charges, Anwar was again called for an investigation under sedition for an alleged seditious comment made on 25 March 2011.
The Court of Appeal’s decision raised profound question on the existence of separation of powers between the executive and judicial. The judiciary as the last bastion in checking the abuses of power by the executive, must rise to the occasion in ending injustices in the case of Anwar Ibrahim and put a stop to the abuses of state machinery for political persecution.
- Association of Women Lawyers
- Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
- Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4)
- Civil Right committee of KLSCAH
- Himpunan Hijau
- Kelab Bangsa Utama
- Lawyers for Liberty
- Malaysia Youth and Students’ Democratic Movement
- Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility
- Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
- Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
- Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
- Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
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