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Malaysia opposition leader sodomy trial begins

[JURIST] The sodomy trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] began in Kuala Lampur on Wednesday, one year after he was arrested. Anwar is charged with sodomizing a male aide in June 2008, though his lawyers have claimed that he was not at the site of the suspected act [Bernama report]. Prior to the commencement of trial activities, Anwar's defense was denied a postponement to replace lead attorney Sulaiman Abdullah, who had withdrawn himself from the case due to illness [Star report]. While speaking with the press before the trial began, Anwar called the decision unreasonable and questioned whether he would receive a fair trial.

If convicted, Anwar faces up to 20 years in prison.

Anwar pleaded not guilty in August to the sodomy charges [JURIST report]. Anwar has called the accusations part of a government campaign to upset his political aspirations, including a parliamentary by-election he won [BBC report] in August. The current sodomy charge is the second against Anwar in the past 11 years. Anwar was Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister until he was fired in 1998 following sodomy charges of which he was initially convicted but later acquitted. He only recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a ten-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges.

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