A Malaysian court sentenced opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to five years in jail on Friday after finding the former deputy prime minister guilty of sodomising his aide in 2008.
He bitterly criticised the three judges after the ruling.
“It is a travesty of justice. I would have thought you would have some courage,” he said to the panel.
The ruling sparked an uproar in a courtroom filled with Anwar’s opposition colleagues and supporters, as his wife and three daughters burst into tears.
The appeals court overturned a previous acquittal on the charges, which Anwar and his supporters have always claimed was a campaign by the ruling regime to destroy his political career with false allegations. Anwar led the opposition to its strongest ever performance in the May 2013 general elections.
The maximum punishment for the offence is a jail term of up to 20 years and whipping. Anwar’s lawyers said they will apply for a stay of execution of the sentence pending an appeal to the country’s Federal Court.
Demonstration by Anwar supporters
Dozens of Anwar supporters demonstrated outside the appeals court in the administrative capital of Putrajaya after the announcement, chanting “Reformasi” (Reform), as a heavy police presence ringed the building.
Anwar, 66, was first charged in 2008 but the country’s High Court cleared him in 2012, citing a lack of evidence.
“This trial was all about knocking Anwar Ibrahim out of politics and the government was prepared to do whatever it took to make that happen,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
The government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has previously denied such allegations.
The ruling triggered condemnation on social media by supporters of Anwar’s party, many of whom called for street protests.
The timing of the long-delayed appeal decision has raised concerns, coming just as Anwar planned to contest a by-election in the key central state of Selangor, close to the capital, on March 23.
He was expected to win and subsequently be made the leader of the state, Malaysia’s richest, which would have boosted his power and the position of the opposition.
But the conviction, if it stands, will disqualify him from standing.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2014-03-07