The Australian- Amanda Hodge (17 September 2016)
Lawyers for jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will seek house arrest for the ailing 69-year-old if a final legal review of his second sodomy conviction fails next month.
Anwar is serving a five-year jail sentence for sodomy after he was convicted in March 2014 in what has been widely condemned as a politically motivated and legally compromised trial.
US lawyer Kimberley Motley said Anwar’s legal team would again highlight the lack of DNA evidence and inconsistency of his accuser’s testimony in the October 12 appeal — the last legal recourse to overturn his conviction.
“Of course we want to get him released, period, and are going for an acquittal. If that doesn’t work we will try for house detention which is allowed under Malaysian law,” said Ms Motley, who is best known for her work in Afghanistan including the early release just last month of a former Australian soldier, Robert Langdon, serving time for murder.
Anwar was initially accused of rape by a young male intern to his People’s Justice Party (PKR) on June 28, 2008.
He was eventually convicted of a lesser charge of sodomy, still a criminal offence in Malaysia, despite four separate doctors finding no evidence of forcible anal penetration of the alleged victim.
During the trial it was discovered that rectal swabs taken from the victim were compromised by a senior police officer who opened the tamper-proof evidence bag and — against instructions — placed the DNA in his filing cabinet rather than the police freezer.
It was also revealed that Mr Saiful met Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, at the time deputy prime minister, and at least one other government official on June 24, 2008 — two days before he alleged the sodomy took place.
The day after meeting Mr Najib, he met privately a senior police officer who had been involved in Anwar’s earlier sodomy trial.
Mr Saiful waited two days after the alleged incident before reporting it at a local hospital.
Ms Motley says Mr Najib should be called to the witness stand to explain what was discussed during that meeting, two days before Mr Saiful apparently went to Anwar’s house with a tube of KY jelly — the reason he gave in court for having suffered no physical injury from the incident.
While the case was “riddled with problems”, one of the most critical was the issue of evidence tampering by police, she said.
“Why would a senior police officer tamper with evidence? He was instructed to refrigerate it. Instead he opened it and stuck it in his filing cabinet for several days,” she told The Weekend Australian.
“There is no evidence of anything that convicts. I don’t know of any court where this would have led to a conviction.”
Ms Motley, who joined Anwar’s legal team just this month, was initially refused access to her client but finally met him on Wednesday during which he appeared “active but tired”.
“He’s trying to keep his spirits up. He is obviously preparing for (the review) but he’s not necessarily expecting a victory,” she said.
“Every single step of the way has been a fight. There’s a lot of intimidation going on.”
Two of Anwar’s legal team face sedition charges for speaking out on his case and others are under investigation.
His daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar was also arrested and investigated for sedition last year after speaking out in parliament against his conviction.
A legal white paper on Anwar’s case, released in May, said the former deputy prime minister — first convicted of sodomy in similarly politically motivated circumstances under former strongman Mahathir Mohammad — weighed less than 66kg and was in constant pain from spinal injuries sustained during a police beating after his first arrest, and a more recent shoulder injury. The one-time heir apparent fell out with Mr Mahathir over the Asian financial crisis of 1997. He is kept in solitary confinement, allowed just one hour each week with his lawyers and one non-contact visit with family every three weeks.
Supporters point to the fact the second sodomy allegations came just two months after Anwar’s political disqualification ended, and three months after he led the opposition parties to their best election result, depriving the ruling UMNO for the first time since 1969 of a two-thirds majority.
In the 2013 election, despite the ongoing sodomy trial, the opposition secured more than 50 per cent of the vote but was unable to form government because of alleged gerrymandering of electoral boundaries.
The sodomy claim also came at a time Mr Najib was under pressure over allegations linking him to the murder of glamorous Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaaribu.