Malaysia opposition leader seeking removal of high court judge in sodomy trial

[JURIST] The sodomy trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] was temporarily suspended Monday as defense 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 Friday [Al Jazeera report] and indicated the defense should file a police complaint against the newspaper instead. Anwar's defense lawyers are also hoping the trial will be postponed 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. Mohamad Zabidin is expected to hear arguments about his removal on Tuesday.

The high-profile trial began last week, 18 months after Anwar was charged [JURIST reports] with sodomizing his former aid Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in 2008 and alleges that the prosecution is part of a government conspiracy to undermine his political agenda. 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 recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a ten-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges.

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