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Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial visits Kuala Lumpur flat

4 February 10 08:17 GMT

The trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges has visited the apartment where his a former aide says he was assaulted.

The trial in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, opened on Wednesday after a judge rejected an appeal by defence lawyers.

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

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

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

Prosecutors say traces of Mr Anwar's DNA were found when Saiful Bukhari Azlan underwent medical checks two days after being assaulted in June 2008.

On Wednesday, the court heard explicit testimony from Mr Saiful, prompting Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah to agree to hear the rest of the evidence behind closed doors.

Mr Anwar's press secretary, Eekmal Ahmad, told the AFP news agency: "I do not have any details on what is being said as it is closed to everyone but the lawyers and individuals involved."

On Thursday, the courtroom travelled by convoy to the apartment.

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.

Mr Anwar represents a major challenge to Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose coalition has held power for more than 50 years.

He has called the sodomy allegation "malicious" and "frivolous".

"It is trumped up by political masters using the prosecution for that purpose," Mr Anwar told the High Court.

'Dirty tricks'

He says he is only on trial for political reasons, and in an interview with BBC News before the trial, he referred to the allegations as a "nasty conspiracy".

"We are committed to democratic ideals and some of us may have to pay the price," he said.

Rights groups have also criticised the trial. Amnesty International accused the government of using "the same old dirty tricks in an attempt to remove the opposition leader from politics".

There were huge protests after Mr Anwar's first conviction for sodomy a decade ago. He was freed on appeal in 2004.

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