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Malaysian Opposition Leader Acquitted in Sodomy TrialBy LIZ GOOCH09 January 2012Ending a politically charged two-year trial, Malaysia’s High Court acquitted the country’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, of sodomy charges on Monday.Judge Zabidin Mohamad Diah told the packed courtroom here in the capital that the DNA evidence offered by the prosecutors was unreliable, and that in sex-offense cases the court was reluctant to convict on uncorroborated testimony alone.The courtroom erupted in cheers after the verdict, as did thousands of Mr. Anwar’s supporters gathered outside. Mr. Anwar, appearing surprised by the outcome, hugged his family and told reporters, “Thank God justice has prevailed.”Sodomy, even between consenting adults, remains a crime in Malaysia, where most of the population is Muslim, and Mr. Anwar, 64, could have been sentenced to a term of up to 20 years if convicted. A prison sentence of a year or more would have barred Mr. Anwar from public office for five years after release.Mr. Anwar has claimed that the case was concocted by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration to damage the opposition’s political standing. Mr. Najib has denied plotting against Mr. Anwar, who served as deputy prime minister in the 1990s.He was prosecuted once before on charges of sodomy and abuse of power, convicted and jailed, in a case that was also denounced by his supporters as politically motivated. The High Court threw out that conviction in 2004.Mr. Anwar then led the opposition to major gains in the 2008 elections, depriving the governing party of a two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time since independence in 1957; a few months later he was charged again, this time with sodomizing a former political aide. Mr. Anwar has described the allegation as a “blatant and vicious lie.”Though the case was widely condemned by human rights organizations and prominent voices in the West, including former Vice President Al Gore and Paul D. Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defense, the trial was widely expected to end in a conviction. That would have sidelined Mr. Anwar for the next national elections, which are expected later this year.“Anwar was acquitted on a charge that should have never been brought in the first place,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch after the trial. “Hopefully this verdict sends a message to the government to put this matter to rest.”The government seemed inclined to make the best of the court’s decision. The information minister, Rais Yatim, issued a statement saying, “Malaysia has an independent judiciary, and this verdict proves that the government does not hold sway over judges’ decisions.”
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