Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim loses sodomy charge bid

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim arrives at court
Lawyers for Anwar Ibrahim (c) say he will appeal against the decision

A Malaysian court has ruled that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial should start next month.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed his application to have the case thrown out because of medical evidence.

Mr Anwar is accused of having sex with a male aide, the second time he has faced a similar charge.

He argued that medical reports showed no sodomy took place, but the judge ruled that the reports alone could not be used to strike out the case.

Mr Anwar - a former deputy prime minister - was charged with sodomising the aide in August last year.

Sodomy is a criminal offence in Malaysia, and he faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Conspiracy claim

He spent six years in prison following a similar accusation in the late 1990s, but was freed six years later after an appeal.

Speaking outside the courtroom after his application was thrown out, Mr Anwar said: "I didn't expect anything different.

"The manner in which the case is proceeding seems worrying. I think we are in for a tough battle but we have compelling arguments."

Mr Anwar was arrested by armed police in a dramatic raid in August 2008 . He was questioned for 24 hours, then charged with sodomy.

A 23-year-old who used to work in his office said Mr Anwar had sex with him at an upmarket apartment on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Anwar says his accuser is lying and the evidence has been fabricated.

He claims that the latest sodomy charge is part of a government conspiracy to undermine his opposition alliance, following its big gains in the March 2008 elections.

Government officials deny any plot against him.

Judge Zabidin Mohamad Diah set the date of the trial for 25 January. Defence lawyers say they will lodge an appeal against the court's decision.

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