Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Malaysian politician in sodomy trial slams law

The Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim,called them archaic rules that could be abused to promote intolerance, invade people's privacy and punish them too harshly.

KUALA LUMPUR // With the verdict in his sodomy trial days away, the Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, yesterday decried the laws he is charged with breaking, calling them archaic rules that could be abused to promote intolerance, invade people's privacy and punish them too harshly.

The remarks place Mr Anwar, who denies charges he sodomised a young male former aide, alone among senior Malaysian politicians.

Government and opposition leaders alike in this Muslim-majority nation usually avoid making statements that could be perceived as a nod to gay rights, partly because of discomfort among religious conservatives. Sodomy in Malaysia is punishable by 20 years in prison and whipping with a rattan cane.

Mr Anwar, 64, said he was braced for the possibility of a long prison sentence when the Kuala Lumpur High Court delivers a decision on Monday. He will not face the whipping penalty because of his age.

"My view is that you can't have laws to be abused for political purposes and to be seen to be punitive and to be unjust to others," Mr Anwar said in a telephone interview, while travelling on a six-day tour of the country for opposition rallies.

Mr Anwar's accuser, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 26, testified that Mr Anwar coerced him into having sex at a Kuala Lumpur apartment in 2008.

Mr Anwar did not take the witness stand but criticised the proceedings in a long courtroom tirade from behind the lawyers' table, where he could not be cross-examined.

Mr Anwar, who is married with six children, insists he is innocent and claims the sodomy charge is part of a government conspiracy to discredit him and destroy the opposition's chances of winning general elections, which are widely expected this year. The prime minister, Najib Razak, has denied any such plot.

The anti-sodomy law is seldom and selectively enforced, often only in cases of sexual abuse of children and teenagers, but gay rights activists have long claimed that it encourages homophobia.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch last month urged Malaysia to abandon laws banning same-sex relations.

Mr Anwar has said that while he believes the government must prohibit same-sex marriage and prevent public obscenity, the current sodomy laws could "be abused to show violent discrimination or intolerance".

"Our present laws are deemed to be rather archaic," Mr Anwar said. "The whole idea [should be] to encourage people to understand not to be seen to be so punitive. In this case it's worse - you can go and probe and peep into people's bedrooms just to try to smear them." This is Mr Anwar's second time on trial for sodomy. A former deputy prime minister, he was found guilty in 2000 of sodomising his family's former driver, but Malaysia's top court freed him from prison in 2004 after quashing his conviction and nine-year sentence.

The current charge surfaced in 2008, several months after Mr Anwar led the opposition to its best electoral results since independence from Britain in 1957.

Mr Anwar said yesterday that regardless of the verdict, his three-party alliance was determined to unseat Mr Najib's long-ruling coalition in the next elections and form an administration that would curb corruption and racial discrimination.

The opposition now controls slightly more than one-third of parliament's seats.

"The likelihood of our winning elections ... is not a far-fetched idea," Mr Anwar said. "We believe that change is imminent and for the benefit of all Malaysians."

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National