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Malaysia appeals court refuses to dismiss sodomy charge against opposition leader

[JURIST] A Malaysian appeals court on Wednesday denied a request by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] to dismiss the charge of sodomy against him. Anwar was appealing the Malaysian high court's December decision [JURIST report] not to dismiss the charge. Anwar is accused of sodomizing his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari, in 2008. He contends the charge is a politically-motivated government conspiracy seeking to undermine his political career. He has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charge. Anwar had previously sought to have the high-profile trial, which began earlier this month, postponed until the court of appeals had made its decision. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

The appeal is only one of numerous attempts by Anwar's defense team to have the trial postponed or dismissed. Last week, the trial was temporarily suspended [JURIST report] when Anwar's lawyers sought the removal of high court Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah for his failure to control prejudicial media coverage. The defense filed an objection asking Mohamad Zabidin to admonish Utusan Malaysia [media website, in Malay], a government-linked newspaper, for running suggestive headlines and photographs taken during the court's private visit to the scene of the alleged sexual encounter. Mohamad Zabidin denied the request and indicated the defense should file a police complaint against the newspaper instead. Anwar's lawyers are also hoping to have the trial postponed until his appeal of a decision [JURIST report] not to grant him access to the prosecution's evidence has been resolved.

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