Kuala Lumpur: The judge hearing Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim`s sodomy trial refused on Thursday to stand down from the case, rejecting the defence argument that he was biased.
The trial, which Anwar says is a political conspiracy engineered by the Prime Minister and his wife, was suspended until March 25 while his lawyers appeal the judge`s decision.
"I don`t see any reason to recuse myself from this case. If I do this I will be running away from my duty as a judge," Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah told the court.
Mohamad Zabidin said no "reasonable person" would infer he was biased based on the defence`s argument that he had failed to rein in unfair media coverage of the trial which began last month.
Defence counsel Karpal Singh said he would contest the judge`s decision and repeated Anwar`s allegations that Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor masterminded the sodomy allegations to undermine the opposition.
"There is a black hand behind this prosecution and it is none other than the present prime minister," Karpal told the court. "Actually there are two hands, including his wife."
Anwar, who faces 20 years in prison if convicted of illicit sexual relations with former aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, was sacked as deputy premier and convicted on similar charges a decade ago.
"These are trumped-up charges involving two black hands -- Najib and Rosmah," the 62-year-old opposition leader told reporters on Thursday.
"Do we want to proceed with these trumped-up charges at the expense of the institutions in this country and the principle of rule of law... or do we want to go on to build this country?"
On Wednesday, some 300 demonstrators massed outside the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur to protest against criticism from Australian lawmakers who last week called for Anwar`s trial to be dropped.
The protesters, led by the influential youth wing of the ruling party UMNO, yelled slogans and carried banners calling on Australia to ‘Mind your own business’.
The Australian MPs had said that observers "find it difficult to believe that a leading opposition voice could be charged with sodomy a second time" and noted the allegations came after Anwar made major gains in 2008 polls.
Anwar was sacked in 1998 and convicted on sodomy and corruption charges but was released in 2004 after the sexual misconduct count was overturned, allowing him to make a comeback to politics as the leader of a reinvigorated opposition.