Page last updated at 09:39 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Malaysia court rejects bid to halt Anwar sodomy trial

Anwar Ibrahim at court in Kuala Lumpur (3 Feb 2010)
Mr Anwars says the charges against him are "frivolous"

Malaysia's appeals court has ruled that the trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy will continue.

Mr Anwar's defence team had previously petitioned the High Court to drop the case, arguing the trial was a scam orchestrated by the government.

When the High Court ruled against Mr Anwar, he entered an appeal.

The trial of the man who was once deputy prime minister - and has formerly been convicted and acquitted of sodomy - is highly politicised.

Judge Abu Samah rejected Mr Anwar's appeal on the grounds that he "had not shown that the charge against him was oppressive and an abuse of court".

Mr Anwar said he would now take his appeal to the Federal Court, the Associated Press news agency reported.

"We will soldier on. We have to exhaust all avenues," the agency quoted him as saying.

The defence argue there is no conclusive physical evidence the alleged sodomy took place and that the trial is an abuse of the legal system.

'Respect law'

Mr Anwar's lawyers have already demanded the judge stands down, alleging he is biased.

They have accused the judge of allowing media coverage to prejudice the trial.

1993 to 1998 - Deputy Prime Minister, under Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad
1999 - Jailed for abuse of power, sparking huge street protests
2000 - Found guilty of sodomy with his wife's driver
2004 - Supreme Court overturns the sodomy conviction, freeing him from jail. He quickly emerges as the de facto opposition leader
March 2008 - ruling coalition narrowly wins general election, but with its worst results in 50 years. The opposition makes unprecedented gains
Aug 2008 - Anwar charged with sodomy for a second time, but despite this is soon voted in as an MP
Feb 2009 - Second trial for sodomy starts

Separately, a call by 50 Australian lawmakers for the trial against Mr Anwar to be dropped has provoked demonstrations in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur against Australian "interference".

Carrying posters that read "Respect our law," protesters called for Australia to stay out of Malaysia's affairs.

International condemnation has come not only from Australia.

On Monday, John Kerry, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the charges "closely mirror the ones levied years ago" and were brought soon after Mr Anwar returned to politics.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Malaysia and Mr Anwar faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Mr Anwar has consistently denied the charges, saying they are part of a political conspiracy against him.

The judge had denied Mr Anwar's lawyers advanced access to medical evidence, DNA and CCTV tapes, which they said were key in providing a proper defence.

The charismatic opposition leader - who was deputy prime minister until his sudden sacking in 1998 - served six years after an earlier conviction for sodomy, which was subsequently overturned on appeal.

After his release, he led the opposition to election gains in 2008.

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