2011/03/08

Malaysia's Anwar jubilant as DNA evidence rejected

KUALA LUMPUR, March  8, 2011 (AFP) - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim won a key victory in his sodomy trial Tuesday as DNA evidence that the prosecution had linked with his accuser was ruled inadmissible.

The High Court's decision is a major boost for Anwar, a former deputy premier who was jailed on separate sex and corruption counts a decade ago, and who faces 20 years in jail if found guilty of the new charges.

The court found that a toothbrush, mineral water bottle and a hand towel taken from the lock-up where Anwar was held overnight after his arrest in July 2008 were improperly obtained.

"I find that in this case the DNA samples from the three items... were obtained by unfair means from the accused," said judge Zabidin Mohamed Diah, adding that they were to be "excluded from evidence".

Anwar was in high spirits after the decision, which means the prosecution will now have to rely on the evidence of the accuser, his former aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who said he was sodomised at an upmarket condominium.

"I am grateful for the verdict and this just further supports what I have said, that I am being persecuted unfairly by the authorities in their bid to silence me," Anwar told reporters.

Government chemists have testified that DNA evidence from the items taken from the lock-up -- identified only as "male DNA" -- matched samples taken from 25-year-old Saiful.

At the opening of the trial in February last year the prosecution said tests on the young accuser had found traces of Anwar's semen.

The trial, which has been punctuated by long delays, has also heard evidence from one of the chemists that there were multiple unidentified DNA profiles found in Saiful's anus and trousers.

Anwar has said he is the victim of a plot to prevent him from taking power after the opposition made huge strides in 2008 elections, stunning the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been in power for half a century.

The 63-year-old father-of-six has refused to provide DNA evidence in the latest case, saying he fears it would be misused.

Malaysian Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said the High Court's decision, which comes after a series of failed legal petitions lodged by Anwar, severely undermined the prosecution's case.

"From what I've seen and heard I think the charge should fall. They should withdraw the proceedings because as it stands now there is nothing to link Anwar to the DNA evidence which has been produced," he said.

Human Rights Watch has urged Malaysia to drop the charges, condemning the case as a "charade of justice".

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in his memoirs released Tuesday said he did not regret removing his one-time heir apparent, who spent six years in jail until the sodomy conviction was overturned.

"He left me no choice but to remove him and I did what I thought was best for the country. I may have made many mistakes, but removing Anwar was not one of them," he said in "A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad".

Mahathir said he had confronted Anwar during a meeting with top party leaders in 1998 with the sodomy allegations, and that he had also been told that his then deputy premier had arranged to have sex with four young women.

"The belief that I dismissed him because I was afraid he would oust me is without basis," Mahathir said.

"I dismissed him for two reasons only: he was unsuitable to continue serving in the government and he was unsuitable to succeed me as prime minister."

Sodomy, even among consenting adults, is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia.