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Malaysia: End ‘Charade of Justice’ at Anwar Trial

Proceedings Violate Basic Fair Trial Rights

March 23, 2010

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director

(New York) – The Malaysian government should drop all charges in the politically motivated trial against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Human Rights Watch said today. The so-called “Sodomy II” trial, which has been plagued by serious due process problems and government interference, is scheduled to resume on March 25, 2010.
The government has accused Anwar of consensual homosexual conduct with Mohammed Saiful Bukhari Azlan, a former aide, on June 26, 2008, in a private condominium. Court decisions denying Anwar’s lawyers access to critical evidence held by prosecutors, and the publication of unreleased trial evidence in a ruling party newspaper, raise serious concerns about whether Anwar will receive a fair trial.
“The government should end this charade of justice and drop the charges against Anwar,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Every step of the way, the court has blocked Anwar’s lawyers from preparing a thorough defense.”
Several of the court’s rulings subvert the discovery process, a crucial component of the right to prepare a defense, Human Rights Watch said. Anwar’s lawyers have been denied pre-trial access to DNA specimen samples, statements by the plaintiff and key prosecution witnesses, notes from doctors who examined Saiful, and original copies of CCTV surveillance system tapes from the condominium at the time of the alleged incident. Even after the trial began, on February 2, 2010, the court ruled against providing the defendant a list of prosecution witnesses, much less witness statements.
Human Rights Watch is also deeply concerned about political interference in the trial by the ruling coalition. The court took no action in response to articles in Utusan Malaysia, a newspaper owned by UMNO, the lead party in the ruling coalition, containing information gathered during the court’s in camera fact-finding visit to the condominium.
“The publication of unreleased trial evidence in what is effectively a government newspaper is an appalling attempt by the government to interfere in the Anwar case,” Robertson said. “This is just the latest instance of the ruling coalition trying to call the shots in this trial of a major opposition leader.”
Other instances of government interference have surfaced during the 20 months since the charges were first leveled against Anwar. The most damaging episode was the involvement of Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who in March 2009 transferred the case from a Sessions Court to the High Court, limiting the defendant’s right to appeal should he lose the case. At the time the attorney general issued the order, he was under investigation by the country’s anti-corruption agency over allegations that he fabricated evidence in Anwar’s first sodomy case, in 1998.
Should Anwar be found guilty, the court could sentence him to a 20-year prison term and whipping. He would also be forced to relinquish his parliamentary seat. Even if Anwar is imprisoned for only one day or fined at least RM2000 (US$600), he would be barred from standing for election for five years.
Human Rights Watch also has concerns about the authorities’ investigation of the case and development of charges. Saiful was not examined until 48 hours after the alleged incident, and the first doctor from Hospital Pusrawi (Pusat Rawatan Islam) reported he found no evidence of anal penetration. Saiful then visited Hospital Kuala Lumpur, a government hospital, and a report endorsed by three specialists from that hospital also found “no conclusive clinical findings suggestive of penetration to the anus and no significant defensive wound on the body of the patient.”
Saiful originally alleged he was raped but when it was pointed out that Anwar, a then 61-year-old man with a bad back, was no physical match for a healthy 24-year-old, Saiful’s complaint was revised to indicate consensual homosexual conduct.
The charges were filed under an antiquated law, a holdover from British colonial rule, that criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” both consensual and non-consensual. Human Rights Watch opposes all laws used to criminalize consensual homosexual conduct between adults, and has repeatedly urged the Malaysian authorities to repeal those provisions and replace legislation on non-consensual sexual acts with a modern, gender-neutral law on rape.
“The Malaysian judiciary will only come into disrepute by holding another show trial of the country’s opposition leader,” Robertson said. “Rather than politicizing the courts and undermining fair trial rights, the Malaysian government should cease the dirty tricks, drop the charges against Anwar, and return politics to where they belong, in the elected Parliament.”


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SHAH ALAM: Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim yesterday announced the appointment of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the state’s economic advisor. The Menteri Besar made the announcement in his winding speech of the state budget 2010 at the State Assembly here today.

He said Anwar will be sitting at the state economic advisory council for the state’s economic stimulus package. The council was formed last April in to assist the state in implementing its the stimulus package which includes cleaning and developing the Klang River, urban renewal, restructuring of Selangor water industry, enhancement of paddy yield, reviving abandoned housing projects, expanding transportation system and reviving abandoned housing projects.

There are eight other members in the council which include Tan Sri Ramon Navaratman, Tan Sri Clifford Herbert, Datuk Zainal Putih, Dr Barjoyai Bardai, Datuk Paul Low, Prof Sieh Mei Ling and Datuk Dr Mohamed Ariff. Later at a press conference, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid also said that Anwar will also play a key role in promoting Shah Alam as an Islamic investment hub for the region.

“I have met Anwar and he has consented to the appointment with a token monthly allowance of RM1. His experience cannot be doubted as he has been the Deputy Prime Ministe and Finance Minister. He is now a director for a fund management company in United States, an adviser for a large Islamic bank in Bahrain and economic adviser to a country in Europe,” said Tan Sri Abdul Khalid.


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Supreme Council meets today on power transfer

The Umno supreme council meets in emergency session today to again thrash out the leadership transition plan, including the possibility of postponing the December party elections.

Supreme council members were notified by party headquarters around noon yesterday as speculation grew that changes could be made to the scheduled transfer of power between Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

There is no fixed agenda but members contacted said the council was expected to discuss the transition and find a resolution to the doubts hanging over the plan.

Najib, the deputy Umno president, yesterday gave a hint of what was to come when he disclosed that the meeting would be held today.

On Tuesday, he had cancelled his attendance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York just hours before he was due to depart.
“Political questions will be answered tomorrow,” he said yesterday without wanting to be drawn further into the nature of the meeting.

In recent days, Umno appeared to be torn between two views of the transition plan first outlined by Abdullah in July.

One view is for the party to stick to the plan while the other sees Abdullah leaving office sooner than the June 2010 deadline initially agreed on.

Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, a council member, said yesterday the meeting would most likely try to find a middle way between the two views.

“I believe the meeting will come to some kind of compromise. I believe, to accommodate both views, we will most likely cancel the coming December party elections.”

Postponement is possible as the party has until next June to conduct the elections.

The party elections were supposed to have been held last year but the supreme council decided to put them off in order to focus on the general election.

Nazri said postponing the December elections would not be a problem as it would allow matters to cool off for a few months before office-bearers were chosen.

He said a postponement was the most realistic option.

However, councillor Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad is not happy with any arrangement that allows elections to be postponed.

He said the decision should be left to the party grassroots.

“We should leave it to them. Moreover, everyone has been preparing for December.”

Wanita chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said the wing had long decided that any transition plan for the president’s post should be left to Abdullah and Najib.

“Wanita Umno will support any decision made by them on the plan.

“All we ask is that the decision take into account the role to be played by Umno, the future of the party and the country, and the image of the leaders.”

Tan Sri Annuar Musa said it was not right to speculate about today’s meeting.

“The supreme council will deliberate. It will be a final solution not just for the transition plan but what is best for our recovery,” Annuar said.

Other members who spoke anonymously said the party also needed to hold the meeting quickly as council members would be busy with Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations next week .

“Umno members will be going to the open house hosted by menteris besar and party leaders. They will want answers.

“This is our last chance to sort this out before the festivities and division meetings begin on Oct 9,” said a supreme councillor.

Another member said the meeting would not just resolve the transition plan but could also determine if the division meetings would be carried forward.

SHAHRUL PESHAWAR – UMNO is getting nearer to the end and definately it is not a happy ending.

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Filed under Anwar Ibrahim, Inilah dunia