Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's acquittal for sodomy has been overturned on appeal. The ruling threatens his election hopes later this month, with rights groups calling the case politically motivated.
The Court of Appeals in Kuala Lumpur on Friday ruled in favor of the government's efforts to appeal Anwar's lower court acquittal, sentencing him to five years in jail. The court ruled he had anal intercourse with a former male aide in 2008, a crime in the majority Muslim country.
"We find the judge was misdirected on the issue of (DNA) sample integrity," said appellate Justice Balia Yusof, adding that the decision by the three justices was unanimous.
The 66-year-old Anwar was previously sentenced to six years in prison, but was released on appeal in January 2012. Before that, he was found guilty of sodomy and corruption as deputy premier in 1999.
"It's [happening] all over again after 15 years," Anwar told reporters. "They want to put me in the lock-up."
Human Rights Watch called his case "politically motivated persecution," saying the Malaysian government wants to remove Anwar from politics "by hook or by crook."
The defense had said DNA evidence against Anwar had been contaminated, which the Kuala Lumpur high court high judge had argued in the previous ruling. But the three-member appellate court Friday said that judgement was incorrect.
"We find the judge was misdirected on the issue of sample integrity," said Yusof.
Anwar's lawyers are expected to appeal the ruling and win a postponement of the sentence. Nonetheless, Friday's decision could affect Anwar's election hopes. He is running for a local state seat this month. He must personally deliver his nomination papers on March 11 to be eligible to run.
If elected, it could put him on a path to take charge of Selangor, the richest and most-populous state in Malaysia. Anwar is considered the most realistic threat to the Barisan Nasional coalition of Prime Minister Najib Razak
dr/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)