Malaysia’s Anwar acquitted, to focus on elections
KUALA LUMPUR MALAYSIAN opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was acquitted on Monday in a stunning climax to a two-year sodomy trial and quickly set his sights on ousting the longruling coalition in upcoming polls.
The unexpected decision set off pandemonium at the Kuala Lumpur High Court where Anwar — a former deputy premier who was sacked in 1998 and jailed on earlier sodomy charges — was mobbed by jubilant family and friends.
“Thank God, justice has been served,” Anwar told reporters in the courtroom after being cleared of sexual misconduct with a young male aide, charges he said were a conspiracy to cripple his resurgent opposition alliance.
An elated Anwar later told he was now clear to focus on the prize he has sought since his shock ouster from the ruling party in 1998: consigning the governing Barisan Nasional coalition to history.
“Now that I am vindicated and freed, naturally I will work with my friends and... the coalition of opposition parties to ensure we can wrest control of Putrajaya (Malaysia’s administrative capital),” he said. “Our only concern now is to ensure that the elections are held free and fair,” Anwar said as he sipped milk tea in a festive atmosphere at his Kuala Lumpur home.
“Given free and fair elections, I am confident, God willing, we will win.” Thousands of supporters who had massed at the court under heavy security erupted into cheers and celebrated in the streets, shouting the opposition’s battle cry of “Reformasi!” (reform).
In a brief statement, Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah said controversial DNA evidence submitted by the prosecution in the case was unreliable.
“The court is always reluctant to convict on sexual offences without corroborative evidence. Therefore, the accused is acquitted and discharged,” he said.
The ruling came as a surprise to many, including Anwar, who had said Prime Minister Najib Razak had fixed the verdict to remove him as a political threat and shore up the coalition’s fivedecade grip on power.
Information Minister Rais Yatim said the ruling proved the sincerity of recent promises by Najib to do away with his coalition’s authoritarian ways.
“Malaysia has an independent judiciary and this verdict proves that the government does not hold sway over judges’ decisions,” he said in a statement.