[JURIST] Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [official profile, JURIST news archive] entered a plea of not guilty on Wednesday at the start of his sodomy trial. Anwar's defense lawyers are hoping to postpone the trial until the resolution of his appeals of the High Court's refusal to dismiss the sodomy charge and the Federal Court's decision [JURIST reports] not to grant him access to prosecution evidence. Anwar, accused of sodomizing his former aid Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, contends the trial is part of a government conspiracy to undermine his political career. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
The start of the high-profile trial comes 18 months after Anwar was charged [JURIST report]. Anwar's defense team has repeatedly postponed the trial with attempts to have the case thrown out. 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.