Malaysia Sodomy Case Flawed from Day One
|Mar 8, 2014|
Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II trial, which ran almost two years before ending in 2012, was built on flawed evidence, procedural mistakes, tainted witnesses and reports of political collusion with the current prime minister, and was condemned internationally by legal scholars and human rights activists.
He was eventually acquitted for lack of evidence only to have an appeals court reverse that decision, ruling in favor of a government appeal on Friday. He was sentenced to five years in prison but is free on bail pending appeal. Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia.
The sudden reversal on Friday shocked political observers and the general public.
Sordid and Unbelievable The story began on June 28, 2008 when a then-24-year-old aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhairy Azlan, made the sodomy accusation against Anwar, who had led the three-party Pakatan Rakyat coalition to a historic sweep of five Malaysian states, winning 82 parliamentary seats in general elections and breaking the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition's two-thirds majority hold on parliament.
Despite an offer to appear voluntarily at the police station to deal with the charges, the opposition leader was arrested at his home on July 16 of that year by a contingent of 10 carloads of police commandos and was locked up overnight in a Kuala Lumpur jail.
The trial, which began in February 2010, was marred by the introduction of a mountain of questionable evidence, egregious prosecutorial errors and a long series of prejudicial rulings by High Court Judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohamad Diah.
From the very beginning, doubts began to surface. To start with, Saiful belatedly sought to get doctors to certify that he had been sodomized 48 hours after the alleged encounter. Records showed he first went to a private hospital where a doctor found no evidence of penetration and told him to go to a government hospital. At the first government hospital, doctors also told him they had found no evidence of tearing or scarring that would have indicated his anus had been penetrated. He was forced to go to a third government hospital where he finally found a physician willing to say the act had taken place.
Political connections Saiful acknowledged in court that he had met with then-Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, on June 24, 2008, two days before the alleged sodomy took place and on other occasions with Rosmah's close confidant, the former track star Mumtaz Jaafar. Neither the prime minister nor his wife nor Mumtaz was called to the stand to explain why they met with Saiful.
There were many questions about the DNA, which was allegedly taken from Saiful’s rectum 56* hours after the reported act took place. He claimed not to have eaten, drunk nor gone to the bathroom for that entire period.
The evidence was not refrigerated and was stored in an unguarded police office. Government laboratory technicians testified that as many as 11 different DNA traces had been found in Saiful’s rectum. There were serious questions over whether the samples had been tampered with, leading to Zabidin's original acquittal. At one point Zabidin ruled that the DNA was too doubtful to be admitted, only to have the prosecution appeal, at which point the judge reversed himself, leading to charges he had been coerced.
There were even questions whether Saiful had actually met with Anwar on the date he allegedly was sodomized. Although cameras showed him in the lift of the building where the offence allegedly took place, Anwar said he was meeting with a group of economists in the condo at the time and that Saiful had not appeared in the room.
Saiful also acknowledged meeting secretly twice with Rodwan Mohd Yusof, a senior assistant police commissioner, before the alleged offense took place. Rodwan became famous, or infamous, in Anwar's 1998 Sodomy I trial when he was found to have illegally removed Anwar's DNA samples from forensic custody and planted them on a mattress allegedly used by Anwar for a homosexual dalliance. To protect the integrity of the prosecution's case, the presiding judge, Augustine Paul, expunged the entire DNA evidence at the time.
Saiful testified that on the day he allegedly met with Anwar, he had taken lubricant with him to Anwar’s condominium – hardly the act of an innocent aide who had no idea that the then 63-year-old Anwar was about to jump him for unnatural sex.
It also became known during that Saiful was having a sexual liaison with Farah Azlina Latif, a female member of the prosecution team, which might have further disqualified him as a complaining witness.
The family apologizes Saiful’s father, Azlan Mohd Lazim in March 2013, apologized to Anwar at a press conference and said the plot to have Anwar arrested was cooked up in Najib’s office. He said his son had been used by "irresponsible quarters" and that statements that both he and his son gave to the press during and after the trial were written by his lawyer and a special officer in Najib's office.
"Anwar is innocent and a victim of this slander... as such I apologize to Anwar and his family," Azlan said in a printed statement." He and his family have suffered a lot as a result of this slander. I deeply regret all the slander hurled against Anwar, which involved my son Saiful Bukhairi."
The case "was planned in great detail by a special officer in the PM's Department," Azlan said. "Even the script I read during the press conference after Anwar's sodomy acquittal last year was prepared by this officer."
His son, he said, "has never explained the sodomy incident and the accusation to me. I was never called as a witness in the case. I was never called by any party to offer my statement as the father from the start to the end of the trial."
Although he was always seen accompanying his son during the trial, Azlan explained that he did so simply as a father who was giving moral support. Azlan said he decided to make his statement after collecting information obtained during the trial, as well as that sent to him by the public.
"As a Malay and a Muslim, I started to realize the evil of this plan. I don't want to continue to conspire with this malicious slander. I want the people who love this country to know their malicious intention," he said. "If this malicious intention continues, not only the Malays and Muslims would be destroyed, but the nation would be destroyed as well. I do not want to see this happen."
*Length of time was originally misstated