Acquittal from sodomy only option to set Anwar free


PETALING JAYA: Former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s only way out of prison is to be cleared of the sodomy charge before a new Federal Court bench, a criminal lawyer said.

N Sivananthan, however, said Anwar’s lawyers had to first convince the apex court that the sodomy conviction last year was a grave miscarriage of justice.

“His lawyers have to show that the decision was tainted with illegality, bias or prejudice,” said Sivananthan, who is also a defence counsel at the International Criminal Court.

He said the court would only set aside the earlier judgment if the strict threshold for review under Rule 137 of the Rules of Federal Court 1995 was satisfied.

He said the court would then proceed to rehear the appeal and only at this stage could Anwar’s lawyers argue the merit of the case based on facts and the law.

Anwar filed the review last year and the apex court will hear the matter on Oct 12.

“He can only be freed if the new bench allows his appeal and quashes the conviction of the Court of Appeal,” he added.

However, the lawyer said he could not recall of the bench reversing the judgment of another bench in a criminal case.

“It is going to be an uphill task but nothing is impossible,” he added.

Sivananthan said this in response to a statement by human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley, who claimed that Anwar had not committed the crime.

Motley, who claimed to be appointed to appear for Anwar on a pro bono basis, said she also intended to talk globally about the way Anwar had been treated within the Malaysian legal system.

She was also denied the opportunity to meet the PKR de facto leader who is currently serving a five year sentence at the Sungai Buloh Prison for sexual misconduct on his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008.

Another lawyer, K Ramu, reminded Motley that Anwar was found guilty of the crime by the highest court in Malaysia and was not primarily appealing against the sentence and conviction of a lower court.

“Anwar’s final battle is within the four walls of the Federal Court. It is pointless to make a statement that he is innocent or wage an international campaign,” he said.

Ramu said Motley was not a practising lawyer in Malaysia nor had she obtained a temporary licence to join Anwar’s legal team during proceeding.

He said the prisons board had the right to vet who could meet Anwar, especially if it involved foreigners.

Anwar, 68, was initially acquitted by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Jan 9, 2012. However, the Court of Appeal reversed the acquittal and sentenced him to five-years’ jail on March 7, 2014.

The five-man bench in the Federal Court chaired by Chief Justce Arifin Zakaria, in maintaining the conviction, said it found that Saiful was a credible witness.

He also said that the apex court accepted the DNA evidence tendered by the prosecution, explaining that degradation did not prevent the samples from being usable.

The bench concluded that there was no break in the chain of custody as claimed by Anwar’s lawyers.