Najib Wants to Quick-fix Anwar?


MANILA: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Friday accused his country's government of seeking to convict him quickly of sodomy as part of efforts to deflect attention against its own woes.

Anwar spoke out angrily after he lost his appeal for access to the government's evidence against him in the sodomy trial, which is due to start in Kuala Lumpur next week and could see him jailed for 20 years.

"I'm shocked with the (government's) impunity to go on with such a case despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary," Anwar told AFP on a short trip to the Philippines.

Anwar accused Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak of orchestrating efforts to have him convicted of sodomy, and said he feared the court could buckle under the pressure from the government.

Asked if he thought he would win the case, Anwar said: "Yes, assuming the court agrees... to look at facts and the law. I'm confident of the facts.

"(But) I'm not too confident of the system because I think Najib is quite directly involved."

Anwar said the court case may be over in a matter of weeks.

"It seems they want to rush it... their political masters want a quick conviction."

Anwar insisted the government was seeking to jail him on sodomy charges only to eliminate his political challenge, as Najib's ruling party was losing popularity amid corruption allegations and rising racial domestic tensions.

"I think Najib wants to deflect attention from the cases of corruption and the tensions that are brewing," he said.

Anwar is accused of having sexual relations with then 24-year-old Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who was an aide in his office.

The case runs the risk of repeating history for Anwar, who was sacked as deputy prime minister and jailed a decade ago on separate sodomy and corruption charges.

He spent six years in prison but the sex charge was eventually overturned.

After being released, Anwar reinvigorated the opposition and rallied it in 2008 to achieve its best ever results in national elections, when it won a third of parliamentary seats.

When asked about the prospect of people taking to the streets to express support for him, Anwar said mass protests against the government could occur if he was found guilty of sodomy again.

"I cannot preclude that possibility," he said.

In Kuala Lumpur, Anwar's lawyer said their legal team would seek a review of Friday's Federal Court ruling that barred them from having access to the prosecution's evidence against him.

"The court ruled that the evidence that we were seeking did not fall within the 'necessary and desirable' category and turned down the appeal," lawyer Sankara Nair told AFP.

"It has far-reaching negative implications in Malaysian criminal law as it is a reversal of earlier positions in law allowing greater disclosure by the prosecutors so the accused can prepare his defence effectively."

Sankara said he would seek a stay of the trial, which is due to begin on Tuesday, to give time for Anwar's legal team to push for an appeal to strike out the case completely.

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