Malaysia opposition leader’s ‘sodomy’ conviction condemned


Jailed for five years: Anwar Ibrahim

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has slammed Tuesday’s sentencing of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to five years in jail on charges of “sodomy”.

Following seven years of legal battles, the Federal Court of Malaysia upheld a lower court ruling and jailed Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, for violating section 377 of the penal code.

HRW said the government had used the anti-gay law as a means to strip Anwar of his seat in the federal Parliament where he leads the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

Many observers believe that the prison sentence will mean an end to the 67-year-old’s political career.

“Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government has persisted in its politically motivated prosecution of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim at the expense of democratic freedoms and the rights to non-discrimination and privacy for all Malaysians,” said Phil Robertson, HRC’s Deputy Asia Director.

“Allowing this travesty of justice to stand will further undermine respect for rights and democracy in Malaysia.”

Anwar was first arrested in July, 2008, based on a complaint from a political aide that Anwar had consensual sex with him. Anwar denied the claim and was acquitted in 2012 due to lack of evidence.

The government appealed and, in March, 2014, the Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal and sentenced Anwar to five years in prison. Tuesday’s ruling upheld this verdict. It was his final option for appeal.

Anwar told Reuters that the court had chosen to abide by “the dictates of their political masters, their partners in crime for the murder of the judicial institution and integrity.”

He added that, “They have sold their souls to the devil and are bartering their conscience for material gain and comfort.”

The politician has been charged a total of four times under the anti-gay law, which has only been invoked seven times since 1938.

“The willingness of successive Malaysian governments to use the law repeatedly against one high-profile political opponent highlights the danger it poses so long as it remains on the books,” argued HRW.

“By persisting in its political vendetta using section 377, the government is also denigrating Malaysia’s LGBT community,” Robertson said. “Using an archaic and discriminatory law in order to score political points shows Prime Minister Najib’s encouragement of intolerance under his rule.”

Anwar is currently serving his sentence in Sungai Buloh Prison.

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