Anwar Angrily Denies Guilt in Malaysian Courtroom

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim Monday delivered a blistering 8,700 word statement from the dock denying he had sodomized an aide in 2008. (Read Anwar's statement here.) He accused Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, his wife, Rosmah Mansor, and government officials of framing him with the connivance of High Court Judge Mohamed Zabidin Mohamed Ziah to ruin him politically.

The court’s integrity, he said, “has been completely compromised and bears all the classic symptoms of a show trial where the script has been effectively written and the outcome a foregone conclusion.”

In the printed statement, which took more than an hour to read, Anwar said he categorically denied all of the charges against him. “I want to state in no uncertain terms that I have never had any sexual relations with the complainant Mohamed Saiful. His allegation is a blatant and vicious lie and will be proved to be so.”

Anwar’s decision to make his statement from the dock means that he can’t be cross examined. His defense team is asking that Najib, Rosmah and the former inspector general of the police be among the seven witnesses to be called in the case, which will be continued for two weeks to give his team the time to interview witnesses.

He called the allegations a “vile and despicable attempt at character assassination,” accusing the prosecution of consistently refusing to disclose critical material for his defense including a list of prosecution witnesses, hospital examination notes, witness statements and other materials.

In a courtroom packed with journalists and foreign diplomats, he spent much of his testimony accusing Zabidin of bias against him on a wide front.

At the time Anwar was jailed, it was impermissible for prosecutors to collect DNA samples without the approval of the suspect. After the opposition leader was accused of the crime, however, a law was rushed through Malaysia’s parliament reversing that law and making it permissible to take a suspect’s DNA. Zabidin first ruled that since the DNA was taken from Anwar prior to the passage of the law, it was not admissible. However, after a prosecution lawyer asked in court that Zabidin reverse himself, he did so.

Anwar also charged that the judge had allowed DNA evidence taken from Saiful’s rear end into the trial despite the fact that it was stored improperly and that up to 90 hours had lapsed between the time it was taken and when it was examined by laboratory technicians.

Zabidin, he said, “had the residual power and the jurisdiction to have invoked (his) powers relating to contempt of court.” The judge, he said, “chose not to do so for reasons best known to (himself). “What has happened is not in the best traditions of the Judiciary.”

‘The perquisites of a sound judicial system are independence and impartiality,” he said. “ For an effective and a strong judicial system, the impartiality of its judges is of paramount importance. But it cannot be denied that the public’s confidence in the judicial system is shaped and molded more by appearances. In view of this, how can I get a fair trial or even the semblance of one before the trial judge now who has been further put in a position to compound biasness against me?”

One of the witnesses who gave him an alibi, he said, was harassed by the police for a total of 30 hours in an attempt to scuttle his defense.

Anwar gave a detailed explanation of the night Saiful was said to have been sodomized, saying “He says he sat down at the same table and started the discussion. He told the court of the crude manner in which I had allegedly asked for sex…When questioned, he answered that he was angry and scared and that he was not prepared to do it but purportedly because I had appeared angry, he eventually obliged.

“It has to be observed at this stage the complainant could have, on his own admission in examination-in-chief, left the room as there is no evidence of any attempt by me to latch the door from inside,” Anwar continued. “He had further alleged that he was ordered into the bedroom and that he did enter out of fear. Even at this stage, the complainant had the opportunity to leave the living room. He did not do so. The rest of the evidence in this regard clearly showed that the complainant had every opportunity on every occasion to flee but he did not do so.

“His reason was that he was petrified by fear. But such a reason flies against the facts. Here is a man in his early twenties, a six-footer, physically fit and robust and with powerful connections in the top police brass as well as the political elite with access to the very inner sanctum of power. Additionally, he has also been a key UMNO student operative, having undergone the rigorous training conducted by the Biro Tats Negara of the Prime Minister’s Department.

“And here I was a 60-year-old man with a history of back injury who had undergone a major back surgery holding no position of power. If indeed I could have exercised any kind of undue influence or mental pressure on him, this could have been easily neutralized by a quick phone call to his connections. As regards the fear of physical harm, it would take a great stretch of the imagination to suggest that I could pose any physical harm to him.”

Saiful, Anwar said, “admitted that he had brought along lubricant and had himself voluntarily and without hesitation applied it. He claimed that carnal intercourse took place and that it was painful and coarse. However, this was clearly not borne out in the medical evidence in the prosecution case suggesting fissures or tears. After the alleged act, he testified that he had a drink and engaged in a friendly conversation with me.”

Rather than seeking medical attention, Anwar said, Saiful attended an opposition party function the next day, then showed up again at Anwar’s home the night evening. Saiful, he said, “neither made a police report nor sought medical attention, notwithstanding that two days prior to the alleged act, he had met with Najib and Rosmah” as well having talked on the phone with two top police officials after that.

The judge, he concluded, refused to order disclosure of material critical to his defense, refused to hold to account officials responsible for leaking and publishing in the media prosecution submissions before the matter was heard in court; his “utter indifference to my protestations about these transgressions has wittingly or unwittingly facilitated the conspiracy to vilify me in the court of public opinion even as the trial is in progress.”

Thus, he said, “you have deprived me of my constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair hearing the effect of which is to entitle me to an unconditional release with the charges leveled against me falling to the ground. Notwithstanding this, you have not only failed to order my release but have adamantly refused to recuse yourself from further presiding at the trial.”

The judge, he added, refused to call the first doctor to examine Saiful, who concluded that there was no evidence of sexual penetration,” calling it a “glaring error of law apart from it being in gross disregard of a finding of fact, that is, that the clinical finding had indicated no evidence of penetration.”

The entire trial, he said, “is nothing but a conspiracy by Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak to send me into political oblivion by attempting once again to put me behind bars. I therefore declare that I have no faith whatsoever that justice will prevail in these proceedings notwithstanding the valiant efforts made by my defense team. As I have said at the outset, this is not a criminal trial. It is a charade staged by the powers that be to put me out of action in order that they remain in power.”

The conspiracy “was most elaborate and went all the way to the prime minister himself and his wife Rosmah Mansor both of whom by the complainant’s own admission had met him in their residence where he purportedly complained of being sexually assaulted…the main thrust of the conspiracy was to fabricate this sodomy charge in order to inflict maximum damage to my character in the run-up campaign to the by-elections.”