Fri April 18, 2003

Malaysia Dismisses Anwar Sodomy Appeal

By Jalil Hamid

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's Court of Appeal dismissed on Friday former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim's appeal against a sodomy conviction for which he was sentenced to nine years in jail.
About 200 supporters gathered outside the courtroom in central Kuala Lumpur for the proceedings, clinging to hopes Anwar will be released on bail later on Friday pending further appeal.
"We are unanimous in dismissing both appeals," judge Pajan Singh Gill, who headed a three-member bench, said in reference to appeals both by the 56-year-old Anwar and his adopted brother, Sukma Darmawan.
Anwar, wearing a neck brace for a chronic back injury, reacted angrily to the ruling after the judges left.
"It is preselected judges. They picked the most junior of the Court of Appeal. What do you expect? It is all scripted," he said from the dock, facing family and supporters.
Anwar, once the chosen successor of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, was sacked and jailed in September 1998 after falling out with his leader.
With Mahathir set to step down in October and a general election due by November 2004 at the latest, support for Anwar among majority Malays remains a key question.
Defense lawyers have sought Anwar's release on bail pending appeal to the Federal Court. A ruling was expected on Friday.
Mahathir's ruling coalition managed a two-thirds majority in the 1999 elections, but saw support among ethnic Malays fall below half because of sympathy for Anwar.
Mahathir and Anwar belong to the ethnic Malay community who account for just over half of Malaysia's 24 million people.
Anwar was found guilty of sodomising his wife's former driver Azizan Abu Bakar three years ago. He was sentenced to nine years, to start after a six-year term for abuse of power related to earlier investigations into sexual immorality.
He has served four of the six years and could expect remission on the remainder of the abuse of power conviction.
Anwar's adopted brother, Sukma, was also convicted of sodomy and sentenced to six year's prison and four strokes of the cane, though he has been free on bail pending appeal.
Sodomy is a crime in the mostly-Muslim Southeast Asian country.
Anwar says the charges against him were all trumped up but Mahathir says he received fair trials.
Rights groups and the State Department have condemned the legal procedures during Anwar's trials as politically motivated and flawed.