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Monday, January 9, 2012

Despite acquittal, Anwar says ‘remains to be seen’ that courts are free

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:22 PM | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Anwar (centre) addressing the crowd outside the Kuala Lumpur High
Court soon after his acquittal on January 9, 2012.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today it “took some courage” for the judge in his sodomy trial to acquit him, but he disputed the government’s assertion that it meant the courts were free from political manipulation.

“I recognise and acknowledge the fact that it took some courage on the part of the judge to come up with (the acquittal) ... But to suggest therefore that the judiciary is independent I think it remains to be seen,” he told reporters after his acquittal.
The High Court today acquitted Anwar of a charge of sodomising his former male aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
Judge Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah ruled that the prosecution had not done enough to prove Anwar had committed sodomy against Saiful.
Anwar, 64, had been similarly indicted of sodomy over a decade ago and was found guilty. He spent six years in jail before being exonerated.
The High Court’s decision this time, ahead of the 13th general election, will likely give a boost to Anwar’s Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact’s plans to take over Putrajaya.
In an immediate reaction, Information Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim said the verdict showed the courts were free from manipulation.
“Malaysia has an independent judiciary and this verdict proves that the government does not hold sway over judges’ decisions,” French news agency AFP quoted Rais as saying in a statement.
Anwar said, however, that to ensure an independent judiciary a major overhaul of the system would be required.
“It is a surprise but we welcome the decision. I am vindicated from the scurrilous smearing of my character and my family.
“It’s a surprise to everyone here because the perception is... the conduct of the judiciary has not been fair.
“But we welcome the decision. We can move forward,” he said.
The trial mirrors a 1998 case in which Anwar was jailed on sodomy and corruption charges after being sacked as deputy prime minister and finance minister. He was freed in 2004 when the conviction was overturned.
Anwar has long contended the trial was a government plot to prevent him from taking power at the next election that is not due until 2013 but may be called this year before a potential global downturn stalls Malaysia’s economic growth.
Najib’s approval ratings have fallen over the year due to a growing religious divide that has alienated minority non-Muslims and fanned middle-class anger over inflation and the slow pace of promised political reforms.
Today’s court verdict had been hotly anticipated for its potential electoral impact.
In the 1990s Anwar had been groomed to succeed former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad until a bitter row between them saw Anwar ousted in 1998.

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