The Malaysian Insider
March 09, 2014
The charge against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the manner in which his appeal was handled fuels the perception that the opposition leader was persecuted and not prosecuted, the Bar Council said.
Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong said that in the first place, the archaic provision under the Penal Code which criminalises sodomy and oral sex should never have been brought against Anwar.
“The case has unnecessarily taken up judicial time and public funds, and has muddied the waters of our justice system.
“We also have grave misgivings with respect to the manner and timing in which the appeal was handled, especially over the way in which mitigation and sentencing proceeded,” Leong said.
The Court of Appeal had found Anwar guilty of sodomy on Friday, overturning the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s January 2012 decision that had found him innocent.
Leong, in a statement today, said that Anwar’s legal team was notified on February 27 that substantive appeal would be heard on March 6 and 7, and that lawyer Karpal Singh only had seven days to prepare for a criminal appeal over a case that had gone through a lengthy trial and which involved 32 witnesses, including expert evidence.
According to Leong, prior to this, the Court of Appeal registry had informed Anwar’s lawyers to reserve April 7 to 10 as the proposed hearing dates, to which the team agreed.
However, these dates were abandoned and replaced with earlier dates.
“If this is true, it raises the question as to why the Court of Appeal brought forward the appeal to be heard when the April dates had been agreed on.
“After all the defendant was facing a possible 20-year jail term and the April dates would have given the legal team more time to prepare,” he said.
Leong further said that while the hearing of the appeal which extended until past 6pm was not unheard of, it was a rare occurrence.
Further to this, after hearing submissions on March 7, the court had taken approximately 90 minutes to consider before giving a unanimous decision in reversing the acquittal by the High Court.
The panel then rejected Karpal’s request for an adjournment to the following week for the mitigation and sentencing for the purpose of obtaining a medical report on Anwar and instead gave the legal team one hour to prepare.
The Court of Appeal then sentenced Anwar to five years jail that evening with proceedings ending only at 7pm.
“These matters raise many questions, cause much speculation, and lend to the perception that justice may have been hijacked, Leong said.
He said that questions that must be answered was whether the cause of justice was best served by the manner and timing in which this appeal was handled and whether the administration of justice was compromised or interfered with.
“Justice and independence are not only facts to be established, it is imperative that they are seen to be so established,” Leong said. – March 9, 2014.