KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 ― Ahead of the Federal Court’s hearing of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s bid to free himself of a sodomy conviction, the Human Rights Watch group said the federal government should halt the alleged “politically-motivated prosecution” of the opposition leader.
Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy director for Asia, claimed that the second sodomy case against Anwar was a “drawn-out political theatre” allegedly used by Putrajaya to take him “out of political contention”.
“Malaysian authorities should drop their case against Anwar Ibrahim or risk making a travesty of the country’s criminal justice system,” he said in a statement today.
To back up his claim, Robertson cited research from the Women’s Candidacy Initiative that showed the sodomy offence had only been invoked seven times since 1938, adding that four of those time, the law was purportedly used on Anwar.
“Malaysia’s sodomy law seems to exist chiefly to persecute Anwar Ibrahim.
“Prime Minister Najib (Razak) should seek the law’s immediate revocation before it can be used to harass and imprison others,” Robertson added as the watchdog voiced concern over the repeated use of the law against the ruling government’s key political enemy.
The Human Rights Watch also highlighted that Anwar’s decades of political career risked being snuffed out by the conviction for the criminal offence, noting that the Court of Appeal’s March verdict had already scuttled the politician’s plans to be a candidate in the Kajang by-election in the same month.
If Anwar’s fails to reverse his five-year imprisonment sentence and conviction at the Federal Court, the Permatang Pauh MP would lose his seat as the law bars anyone fined of RM2,000 or imprisoned for one year to be a lawmaker.
The rights group also said local election laws bars anyone who has been jailed or fined RM2000 from running for office for five years.
“The 10-year hiatus could effectively end Anwar’s political career,” the watchdog said.
It also complained that the sodomy offence used against Anwar allegedly violate international human rights standards as it purportedly criminalizes same-sex sexuality, while not distinguishing between consensual and non-consensual sex.
“Prosecuting Anwar for something that should never be considered a crime shows how far the government is prepared to go to remove a political opponent,” Robertson said.
“By using this law, the government is also putting the rights and freedoms of Malaysia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community at risk,” he added.
On March 7, the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s 2012 acquittal of Anwar, ruling that the trial judge had erred in rejecting the DNA evidence in the second sodomy case.
The Court of Appeal also sentenced Anwar to five years’ jail but allowed him to be released on a RM10,000 bail.
The Federal Court is set to hear Anwar’s appeal next Tuesday and Wednesday, with the latter’s political party PKR already rallying support for him ahead of the hearing under the “Rakyat Hakim Negara” campaign.
The former deputy prime minister has been going on his own campaign since Tuesday to drum up support and is expected to cap it off with a solidarity gathering on the eve of his appeal.