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There’s still the sex video issue

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It has been 14 years since the first sodomy charge was slapped against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and yesterday’s unexpected verdict has left analysts with mixed feelings.

Some believe that the government may finally end its persecution of Anwar as it has more to lose than gain by pursuing the matter, while others fear that another plan is underway to imprison him on a technicality.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, was yesterday acquitted and discharged from a sodomy charge – his second – levelled against him. The sodomy II case, which began in 2010, was brought against him by his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari who is almost 40 years his junior.

In an immediate reaction Anwar, greeting thousands of supporters who thronged Jalan Duta Court Complex yesterday, said he was finally “vindicated”.

Being the galvanizing figure of a disparate opposition coalition, Anwar was credited for the 2008 political tsunami which saw Barisan Nasional lose five states – Kelantan, Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor – to the opposition DAP, PAS and PKR. BN wrested back Perak shortly after in a reverse takeover.

Since then Umno-led BN has been obsessed with discrediting Anwar and in the process has seen its own sway over voters, particularly the Malays, drop.

According to Ooi Kee Beng, Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies, ISEAS, the BN government cannot afford to further persecute Anwar.

He opined that the persecution on the de-facto PKR head may end here as the BN government stands to lose further political clout if it continues to crucify the Permatang Pauh MP in the future.

Appeal unlikely

Ooi added that Anwar and this sodomy case would not drag on further as an appeal would not highlight any new aspects to the case which the the prosecution had already “failed” to establish during the year-long trial.

Asked if the issue of this sodomy case would be prolonged, Ooi answered in the negative.

“Of course the government can bring upon charges against him in the future but for this case, this is all they have and it failed.

“In order to appeal you need a good case you can’t just appeal for fun.

“The prosecution has done everything they could (during the trial) and yet they have failed.

“Anwar’s persecution has gone too far (and) in this time and age with all the information flow it will not work in their (the government’s) favour,” he told FMT.

Fellow political analyst, James Chin of Monash University also said that Anwar may be spared from further prosecution.

Chin indicated that the message from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) delivered through Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim was a signal that there will be no further appeals on this case.

“There will be no appeal because PMO has already issued a statement declaring how the verdict has proven that the judiciary is independent,” said Chin.

AG yet to decide on appeal

In an immediate reaction to the verdict, Rais had in a statement declared that the verdict showed that the Malaysian judiciary was independent and “reputable”.

While calling for the verdict to be respected, Rais added that he was proud that the court had “discharged its duties without fear or favour”.

Yesterday FMT reported that the prosecution team has yet to decide if they will appeal the case.

Chief prosecutor Mohd Yusoff Zainal Abiden said they will wait for the written judgment before any decision is made to appeal the court ruling.

While complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan is fervently hoping that they will appeal, many other parties, however, have voiced hope that the Attorney-General’s chambers will not waste more public funds by pursuing the matter.

Sex video issue

Meanwhile another political analyst Bridget Welsh said the celebrations over Anwar’s release may be short-lived.

“I don’t want to prejudge but there is always a possibility that this isn’t the last of the case.

“The second sodomy case has gone on for almost three years and was taken to court without concrete evidence so there is always a chance that it can be prolonged via the appeal process,” said Welsh, who is an an associate professor in political science at the Singapore Management University.

Welsh reminded that the smearing campaign and persecution is far from over, and Anwar has the sex-video scandal which surfaced last March.

“There is the sex video tape investigations that are still ongoing,” she said, referring to the revelation of a sex video by the trio dubbed ‘Datuk T’ of a man resembling Anwar allegedly having sex with a Chinese prostitute.

In the latest twist to the sex video issue, a probe was launched against Anwar last November after the investigating officer in the case, DSP Shanmugan Moorthy, lodged a police report that Anwar had knowingly given him false information, an offence under Section 182 of the Penal Code.

Anwar has claimed that the sex-video allegations are politically motivated and that this new twist, was a desperate attempt to “keep him busy” and imprison him.-FMT