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Malaysia appeals court rules opposition leader's removal from office constitutional

[JURIST] The Malaysian Federal Court ruled Monday that the 1998 removal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] as deputy prime minister was constitutional. Anwar had challenged his removal on the grounds that the removal was unconstitutional because then-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who fired Anwar alleging that he had notified the king, lacked the authority to do so. According to Malaysia's constitution [text, PDF], "the appointment of any Minister shall have been revoked by the [constitutional monarch] on the advice of the Prime Minister..." The three-judge panel of the Federal Court unanimously rejected [Malay Mail report] Anwar's claim, reasoning that the Agong, or constitutional monarch, has very limited powers to appoint ministers, and that his role is only a formality. The judges also emphasized that no provision in the laws specifies procedures to remove a minister. Anwar's counsel, Karpal Singh, commented [Malaysian Insider report] that the judgment renders the prime minister's powers akin to those of a dictator.

Anwar is currently facing trial on sodomy charges after his appeal to dismiss the charges was rejected [JURIST report] in February. Anwar is charged of sodomizing his former aid Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008. He contends that the charge is a politically-motivated government conspiracy seeking to undermine his political career, and has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report]. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. Anwar was Malaysia's deputy prime minister until he was fired and then jailed in 1998 following corruption and sodomy charges, of which he was acquitted in 2004. 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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