Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government has rejected any suggestion of interference in the case
Malaysia’s highest court has rejected an appeal on Tuesday by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim against a sodomy conviction, sending the politician who poses the greatest threat to the long-ruling coalition back to prison for five years.
The UN Human Rights office and Australia said they were disappointed by the ruling.
Human Rights Watch condemned it as persecution and Amnesty International said it would have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
Anwar, the ruling party’s rising star in the mid-1990s before he fell out with then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, denied the charge that led to his second conviction for sodomy as a fabrication aimed at ending his political career.
“I will walk again for the third time into prison but rest assured that I will walk in with my head held high,” a defiant Anwar said in a statement he read out in court.
“I maintain my innocence.”
Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government has rejected any suggestion of interference in the case.
“Malaysia has an independent judiciary, and there have been many rulings against senior government figures,” the government said in a statement after the ruling.
Anwar criticised the court saying that in rejecting his appeal it was “bowing to the dictates of the political masters”.
“You chose to remain on the dark side and drown your morals and your scruples in a sea of falsehood and subterfuge,” he told the judges who walked out of the court as he spoke.
“I will not surrender,” he said.
Anwar later comforted his wife and children and had a meal with them before being taken to the Sungai Buloh prison, about 30 km (20 miles) from Kuala Lumpur.
A court found the 67-year old former deputy prime minister guilty in March last year of sodomising a former political aide.
The conviction disqualifies him from political office and contesting the next election that must be held by 2018.
Nurul Izzah, Anwar’s daughter who is also a political leader in his Parti Keadilan Rakyat, was also defiant.
“This is not the end,” she told reporters outside the court.
Anwar is head of a three-party opposition alliance that made stunning gains in a 2013 general election which for the first time raised the possibility of a genuine challenge for the coalition that has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957.
The decision against him raises the prospect of a fresh bout of political agitation which could make investors even more cautious about putting money into an economy so heavily dependent on oil and gas revenues at a time when global prices are so low.
Source: Dhaka Tribune