Anwar returns to Federal Court with hope of acquittal


PETALING JAYA: Some 20 months later, former Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim returns to the Federal Court tomorrow in a much awaited hearing to set aside his sodomy conviction.

Soon after the Federal Court affirmed his guilt and a five-year jail term on Feb 10 last year, the de facto PKR leader filed a review application.

Lawyer Bastian Vendargon said that the Federal Court could use “its inherent but narrow jurisdiction” only in appropriate cases.

The senior lawyer, who specialises in civil cases , said Anwar’s legal team had to convince the bench to first set aside the Feb 10 judgment.

“His lawyers have to satisfy the bench that its narrow jurisdiction can be sparingly exercised to cure a certain injustice,” he told FMT.

He said they have to either show there was a coram failure or the judgment was tainted with illegality, bias or prejudice.

Bastian said the bench could order a rehearing of the appeal before another Federal Court panel only if it was convinced by the arguments put forward by the former deputy prime minister’s counsel.

“His lawyers could argue the merits of the case based on facts and the law only if the earlier judgment is set aside.

“If not, it is all over for Anwar ,” said the lawyer who was the first to file a review in 2000 on behalf of the late journalist, M G G Pillai.

In that case, the Federal Court allowed Pillai’s application to set aside the RM2 million judgment in a defamation case where tycoon Vincent Tan was awarded RM2 million.

However, just before a new bench could rehear the appeal, Pillai passed away.

Bastian said, as far as he could remember, there were only a handful of civil cases where the court set aside earlier judgments and later reversed the previous findings.

“In some cases , the previous judgments were set aside, but the new bench still retained the findings on hearing the merits of the case.”

He said only once, in a criminal case at the Court of Appeal, was a judgment set aside as all the grounds of appeal were not heard.

In that case, former national athletics coach C Ramanathan, who molested two junior athletes, later had his jail term reduced from four years to a year after a rehearing.

FMT understands that Anwar’s legal team is likely to raise the issue of bias as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had swiftly issued a statement five minutes after the court upheld the conviction.

Another ground that could be raised was the conduct of ad-hoc prosecutor Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who went on a road show to run down Anwar and his lawyers soon after the final appeal was over.

Anwar is currently serving his jail sentence at the Sungai Buloh Prison for sexual misconduct on his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008.

Anwar, 69, 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.

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