Malaysia: Court must dismiss politically-motivated case against Anwar Ibrahim

Kuala Lumpur, Paris, 5 March, 2014 – Malaysia’s Court of Appeals must dismiss the politically-motivated case against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, FIDH and its member organization Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) said today. The next appeal hearing will be held on 6-7 March in Putrajaya.
This trial is clearly politically motivated to rebuff the most serious political challenge posed to the alliance that has ruled Malaysia since its independence,” said SUARAM Executive Director Yap Swee Seng. “The prosecution has expedited proceedings in an apparent attempt to prevent Anwar Ibrahim from running for the post of Chief Minister of Malaysia’s richest and most populous state,” Mr Yap added.
On 28 January, Anwar announced he would run in the by-election for the Selangor State Assembly seat of Kajang. By becoming a State Assembly MP, Anwar would be eligible to be nominated for the position of Chief Minister of Selangor State. The Kajang by-election is scheduled for 23 March with the closing date for candidates to file their nomination papers being 11 March. If the Court of Appeals upholds the prosecution’s appeal, it could immediately sentence Anwar to a jail term which would result in his inability to run in the by-election.
On 6-7 March, the Court of Appeals in the administrative capital of Putrajaya will hear the prosecution’s appeal against Anwar’s acquittal of charges that he allegedly sodomized his former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan on 26 June, 2008. On 9 January, 2012, the Kuala Lumpur High Court found Anwar not guilty based on tainted DNA evidence presented by the prosecution. The prosecution appealed the High Court’s verdict to the Court of Appeal.
In coordination with FIDH, Danthong Breen, senior advisor for the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), FIDH member organization in Thailand, attended the previous appeal hearing as an independent observer on 12 February. “The credibility of the DNA samples is the prosecution’s last straw. The prosecution’s goal is to show the DNA evidence was not compromised. In response, the defense argues that DNA contamination did occur when the samples were in the custody of former police officer Jude Pereira. This is why the defense sought to recall Pereira as a witness to submit him to further questioning and show that he failed to observe the protocol of custody, including unexplained delays in the procurement and delivery of DNA samples,” explained Mr. Breen. On 4 March, the Federal Court rejected Anwar’s petition to recall Jude Pereira as a witness.
During the 12 February hearing, Anwar’s legal team also attempted to disqualify Muhammad Shafee Abdullah from leading the prosecution in the appeal trial for the third time since November 2013. Shafee is a lawyer associated with United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysia’s ruling party. Anwar’s team sought to bar Shafee on grounds that in October 2012 the Bar Council had found him guilty of misconduct for violating the Legal Profession Publicity Rules 2001 and fined him 5,000 ringgit (US$1,500). On 3 March 2014, the Court of Appeals ruled that Muhammad Shafee Abdullah was fit to be part of the prosecution team in the appeal trial. The court dismissed Anwar’s petition as “made to delay the government’s appeal” and “an abuse of process.”
The judgment of Anwar’s case will be a litmus test for the independence of the judiciary in Malaysia. The Court of Appeals must uphold international standards of fair trial come this 6-7 March,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.