‘Glaring anomalies’ fuel perception of persecution of Anwar, says Bar chief

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 11): The perception that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is being persecuted is fuelled by "glaring anomalies", including not charging the complainant, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, in the opposition leader's sodomy case, says the Malaysian Bar.

Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong said today the charge against Anwar was based on a provision of the Penal Code that has rarely been used.

"Given this, it is remarkable that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been prosecuted and convicted twice for an alleged offence of sexual acts between adults wherein the charge does not contain elements of

"It is a strange world that we live in. These glaring anomalies fuel a perception that Anwar has been persecuted, and not prosecuted," Leong said in a statement in capital Kuala Lumpur.

The Federal Court yesterday dismissed Anwar's appeal against the conviction and five-year jail sentence for sodomising Saiful in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur in June 2008.

Anwar was charged under Section 337B of the Penal Code which provides a jail term of up to 20 years and caning, upon conviction.

It was read together with Section 337A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sodomy and oral sex.

Leong said it was notable that the PKR de facto leader was not charged under Section 377C of the Penal Code with forced sodomy or sodomy rape, although there may appear to have been some allegations of coercion made in the proceedings.  

Section 377C, which provides for sodomy rape offences, states that whoever voluntarily commits sodomy “on another person without the consent, or against the will, of the other person, or by putting the other person in fear of death or hurt to the person or any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than twenty years, and shall also be liable to whipping”.

"It may be said that Anwar has been convicted of an offence, sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, and will be disqualified from being an MP with respect to a charge that seems, on its face, to be a victimless offence.

"This has also given rise to questions or concerns as to why the complainant, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who was alleged to have been a participant in the act of sodomy, was not charged for abetment under sections 377A and 377B, read together with section 109, of the Penal Code," added Leong.

The Federal Court yesterday found Anwar guilty of sodomising his former aide Saiful in a condominium unit at Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, on June 26, 2008.

Anwar was handed a five-year jail term.

In the summary of his judgment, Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria found that claims of political conspiracy by the defence team remained an unsubstantiated allegation.

He also agreed with the High Court and Court of Appeal that Saiful was a credible witness.

Several countries, including the US, the United Kingdom, European Union (EU), Canada and Australia, have expressed concerns about the Federal Court’s verdict.

They said that Anwar’s case raises questions about the independence and fairness of Malaysia’s judiciary, and the country’s rule of law.

The High Commission of Canada said it was also concerned about selective prosecution under the Sedition Act in the country.