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Malaysia court postpones sodomy trial of opposition leader

[JURIST] The Malaysian Federal Court on Wednesday postponed the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] until February 2 pending their decision on his access to prosecution evidence. Anwar's lawyers appealed to the Federal Court to enforce an earlier High Court order [Bernama report] granting access to evidence including recorded witness statements and medical reports. Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria and two Federal Court judges failed to reach a decision [Bernama report] on the appeal and have deferred their decision until January 29. Anwar's lawyers contend the evidence is crucial [Sun Daily report] to preparing a proper defense. The delay comes a day after a Malaysian appeals court ruled [JURIST report] that the country's ban on sodomy is constitutional.

The trial, which was originally set to begin last year, has been postponed several times by Anwar's defense team. He has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to charges of sodomizing his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari, in 2008 and alleges that the prosecution is part of a government conspiracy to undermine his political agenda. Anwar's counsel sought unsuccessfully [JURIST report] to have the case thrown out last month. 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. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

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