Amid calls for Malaysia to decriminalise homosexuality, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been acquitted of charges of sodomy in court.
Ibrahim (64) served as the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister from 1993 to 1998 and heads up the People’s Pact opposition party.
In 2000 he was sentenced to nine years in prison for sodomy but this was reversed in 2004 by the Federal Court.
In 2008 he was again arrested over allegations he sodomised one of his male aides, but was acquitted of the charges on Monday.
The court said that the evidence presented was “uncorroborated” or insufficient to convict Ibrahim, who is married and has four daughters and a son.
The claims that Ibrahim is gay, including a recent sex tape that allegedly includes the politician, have dogged his political career in the predominantly Muslim country.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has called on the Malaysian government to revoke its colonial-era law criminalising consensual sexual acts between people of the same sex.
“The Malaysian government uses its outdated sodomy law to slander political opponents and critics,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Whether or not Anwar Ibrahim engaged in consensual ‘sodomy’ is irrelevant. It’s time to reject this law and end the farcical political theatre that promotes discrimination based on sexual orientation and destroys people’s lives.”
Ibrahim was tried under section 377 of the Malaysian penal code, which prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”.
This so-called sodomy law is a relic of British colonial rule dating back to the mid-19th century. Conviction could result in a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.