Anwar’s Second Sodomy Trial | The Wall Street Journal
Malaysia itself, not the opposition leader, is in the dock.
More than a decade after he was beaten, tried and jailed, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will once again face a Kuala Lumpur court today on charges of sodomy. The accusations are highly dubious and raise a serious question: Is this moderate Muslim democracy becoming a nation with no real rule of law?
The circumstances surrounding Mr. Anwar’s prosecution are suspiciously familiar to most Malaysians. In 1998, he was arrested as he was mounting serious arguments against the increasingly erratic government of United Malays National Organization chief Mahathir Mohamed. On a nearby page, Mr. Anwar’s former aide Munawar Anees describes being tortured and forced to confess to sodomy, a criminal offense in Malaysia. Mr. Anwar was convicted of sodomy and abuse of power and served six years in jail before the sodomy ruling was overturned in 2004. He was allowed to run for political office again in 2008, which he did, in earnest.
Mr. Anwar was arrested again in July 2008, a day after participating in his first nationally televised debate in more than a decade—an event that showcased his political skills and highlighted the growing momentum behind his three-party opposition coalition. He was accused of sodomy with a 23-year-old former aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan. Mr. Saiful was taken into protective police custody after he made his allegation and has since rarely been seen in public. The government denies any political motivation for the charges. Mr. Saiful himself has not been charged.
As in 1998, the evidence in this case is thin at best. The police made a show of arresting Mr. Anwar, put him in jail for a night, and forced him to undergo a humiliating medical “examination.” The government then passed a bill in parliament to give the police expanded powers to collect DNA in criminal cases. Mr. Anwar’s lawyers claim they have a hospital report that shows no sodomy occurred.
Also troubling is the public involvement of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was deputy leader at the time of Mr. Anwar’s 2008 arrest—and the man most politically threatened by Mr. Anwar’s popularity. Mr. Najib acknowledged that he was photographed with and spoke to Mr. Saiful after he was allegedly sodomized and before he went to the hospital for tests. Mr. Najib says he didn’t influence Mr. Saiful’s decision to press charges. Mr. Saiful couldn’t be reached for comment.
This story would sound familiar in a tinpot dictatorship. But Malaysia isn’t one. Along with Indonesia, it forms the backbone of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Its citizens today have far more access to news and information through the Internet than they did 12 years ago. They also have the power to vote.
And that may be the mechanism that keeps Malaysia free and honest. Ordinary citizens—including the majority ethnic Malays—increasingly support Mr. Anwar’s secular platform of religious tolerance, economic liberty and modernization. The opposition won five of 13 states in national elections in 2008, and it has since won seven of nine by-elections. Mr. Anwar was re-elected to parliament in a by-election the month after his arrest in 2008. There will likely be protests in front of the courthouse to show support for him.
The trial that begins today threatens domestic political unrest and undermines confidence, at home and around the world, in Malaysia’s rule of law.
The Price I Paid for Malaysian ‘Justice’
The last time Anwar Ibrahim was put on trial, I was tortured and forced to ‘confess’ to sodomy.
By MUNAWAR A. ANEES | The Wall Street Journal
Nearly 12 years ago, I was languishing in a local hospital as a prisoner of conscience. This loss of freedom was due solely to my long-standing personal and professional association with Anwar Ibrahim, then Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Malaysia. We were falsely implicated in a fabricated case of having committed a mutual act of sodomy.
Such an internment, when driven by ulterior motives, brings a brutal deprivation upon the victim. It acts like a double-edged sword. While one’s freedom of movement is taken away by tormentors, one’s conscience suffocates in a dungeon. A poignant grief sets in once there is awareness that both the body and the conscience have fallen victim to the act of tyranny. That is what distinguishes incarceration out of an actual crime from that emanating from the acts of those who prosecute and persecute innocent others. The tormented memory never fades.
My detention by the Malaysian Special Branch taught me how it feels to be forcibly separated from one’s wife and children. How it feels to be searched and seized, disallowed to make phone calls, handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped naked, driven in an animal cage, shaven bald, endlessly interrogated, humiliated, drugged, deprived of sleep, physically abused. What it’s like to be threatened, blackmailed, hectored by police lawyers, brutalized to make a totally false confession, hospitalized for a consequent heart ailment, and treated as a psychiatric patient with symptoms of Stockholm syndrome. Barely surviving on a meager diet of rancid rice and chicken along with 12 medicines a day, I spent nearly 126 days handcuffed round the clock to my hospital bed, under the watchful eyes of the prison guards.
These tragic events completely ruined me and my family. The financial, physical, psychological and social implications of this calamity reverberate even more than a decade after the horrific occurrence. Words fail to describe what my family and I have quietly endured for the last 10 years. In spite of that, our faith in the ultimate victory of justice and truth has not wavered.
For the last 12 years, I have sought nothing but justice. I have repeatedly approached the Malaysian judicial system—the High Court, the Court of Appeals and the Federal Court—in the hope that justice would be duly provided to me. Unfortunately, my latest request for a review at the Federal Court was dismissed. Why does the judicial system shudder at the prospect of hearing my demand for justice? Why am I denied my day in court?
I am innocent. I am innocent of any and all spurious charges brought against me. I committed no crime for which I was tortured and unjustly imprisoned. I want the Malaysian judicial system to wake up to the fact that gross injustice was committed against me. I want them to realize that the injustice is perpetuated the more I continue to be denied my day in the court. My innocence inspires me to persist and persevere in the path of justice, as it is one of the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Constitution of Malaysia. The judicial system in Malaysia must rise to the call of duty and serve justice without any further delay.
Mr. Anees is a writer based in Tucson, Ariz.