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Sodomy trial of Malaysia`s Anwar shifts to apartment

Last Updated: Thursday, February 4, 2010 - 15:26

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim`s sodomy trial adjourned on Thursday for a visit to the apartment where he is alleged to have had illicit sexual relations with a young male aide.
Anwar and his wife and lawyers, together with his 24-year-old accuser Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, prosecutors and the High Court judge presiding over the case, left the court in a 10-vehicle convoy.

"We are going to the site," Anwar told reporters as he departed under a police escort for the Desa Damansara condominium in an expensive Kuala Lumpur suburb.

As Saiful alighted from the car, a woman among a group of opposition supporters yelled repeatedly: "You have no shame."

Anwar, 62, left the building after about half an hour, rolling down the window of his car to smile and wave at supporters.

The former deputy premier, who was sacked and jailed on corruption and sodomy charges a decade ago, has dismissed the new allegations which carry a penalty of 20 years` imprisonment as a plot to end his political career.

On Wednesday, the trial opened with Saiful testifying that Anwar, using vulgar language, propositioned him for sex shortly after he came to the apartment on June 26, 2008 to deliver a document.

He said he went to the bathroom to wash himself, undressed, hung up his clothes and wrapped himself in a towel, returning to the bedroom where he was embraced by Anwar who was also wearing just a towel.

His testimony was cut short as the judge agreed to a defence application to hear the rest of the account in a closed hearing on Thursday morning.

Anwar`s press secretary Eekmal Ahmad confirmed that Saiful gave further testimony in a private hearing.

"I do not have any details on what is being said as it is closed to everyone but the lawyers and individuals involved," he said.

Prosecutors said on Tuesday that two days after the alleged incident Saiful underwent a medical examination at a hospital and that DNA tests on samples taken from his body found traces of Anwar`s semen.

Prosecutor Mohamed Yusof Zainal Abiden said Anwar`s guilt would be proven through Saiful`s testimony, as well as "forensic evidence from doctors and chemists alongside circumstantial evidence and documentary evidence."

Sodomy, even among consenting adults, carries a penalty of up to 20 years in Malaysia, a conservative and Muslim-majority country.

Saiful was the first witness called in the trial, which is taking place after months of delays caused by defence applications including an attempt to gain access to evidence such as medical reports and closed-circuit TV footage.

Anwar has accused Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife of being personally involved in fabricating the charges, and said he would call them as witnesses.

The Barisan Nasional coalition government, which has ruled Malaysia for half a century, was hit with its worst ever results in 2008 elections that saw it lose its crucial two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Anwar, a married father-of-six, was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 during a power struggle with then-premier Mahathir Mohamad, and convicted on sodomy and corruption charges widely seen as politically motivated.

In 2004, after he had spent six years behind bars, the sodomy conviction was overturned and he was released, allowing him to reinvent himself as the leader of a reinvigorated opposition.

The trial, which defence lawyers say could drag on for eight months, presents a major challenge for both sides of the political divide, and will be a high-profile test of Malaysia`s justice system.

Since the landmark 2008 elections, the opposition has become beset by infighting and analysts say that Anwar`s legal battle is a serious distraction that will only worsen its problems.

Meanwhile, the government is struggling to defend Malaysia`s image as a moderate and stable Muslim-majority nation, as it competes for scarce foreign investment flows.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, February 4, 2010 - 15:26
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