x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Anwar 'will get a fair trial', Malaysia tells Clinton

The Malaysian opposition leader's trial on sodomy charges will be open, the country¿s foreign minister, said today after talks with the US Secretary of State.

The Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will get a fair trial on sodomy charges, the country's foreign minister, Anifah Aman, said today after talks with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton that.

Mr Anifah said: "It is in my interest and our interests to make sure Anwar gets a fair trial, because if there is such a thing as political persecution, if it can happen to Anwar, it can happen to all of us."

Speaking at a press conference with Mrs Clinton, Mr Anifah said he had spoken with her about Mr Anwar's case and that he was making the assurance as a member of parliament and a member of cabinet.

"Being an open trial I think the world will be able to judge the outcome," he said of the charges that could see Mr Anwar jailed for up to 20 years.

Mr Anwar, a former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed on separate sex and corruption counts a decade ago, says he is again the victim of a political conspiracy and fears he will not receive justice on the latest allegations.

However, Mr Anifah dismissed the notion that Mr Anwar was being persecuted by the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been in power for half a century.

"What surprises me is that if there is political persecution, I think you have to give credit to the Barisan Nasional government that it is much smarter," he said.

"We may as well stop Anwar before he becomes a member of parliament rather than taking it to the open trial in court," he said.

On a visit to Washington in June, Mr Anwar welcomed the attention being paid to Malaysia by President Barack Obama but said Washington needed to be careful not to be "condoning the excesses" of the Malaysian government.

Mr Anwar had been expected to meet Mrs Clinton during her visit, but US officials said today that no such talks had been scheduled.

Mrs Clinton commented on his trial in the context of Malaysia's democratic development.

"It is well known that the United States believes it is important for all aspects of the case to be conducted fairly and transparently and in a way that increases confidence in the rule of law in Malaysia," she said.

Mr Anwar's opposition alliance made substantial gains in 2008 elections, seizing a third of parliamentary seats in an unprecedented performance against the Barisan Nasional.

Mr Anwar, 63, who is accused of illicit relations with a young male aide, has said the allegations have been concocted to end his career and neutralise the threat he poses to the government.

Human Rights Watch has urged Malaysia to drop the charges, condemning the case as a "charade of justice," and the United States has previously warned it is watching the saga closely.

Sodomy, even among consenting adults, is illegal in Malaysia, a conservative Muslim-majority country.

Anwar spent six years in jail on the original sodomy and corruption allegations until the sex conviction was quashed in 2004.

His new trial opened in February but has been punctuated by lengthy delays and has made little progress.