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Malaysia high court rejects former opposition leader's defamation suit

The Federal Court of Malaysia [official website], the country's highest court, on Wednesday rejected a defamation suit filed by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] against former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad [BBC profile]. Anwar filed suit in 2006 after Mahathir allegedly suggested at a human rights conference that Anwar was unfit for office because of his supposed homosexuality. His suit was dismissed by the Federal Court in 2007, and an appeals court rejected his appeal [JURIST reports] last year. The Federal Court upheld that ruling Wednesday, fining Anwar [AFP report] 70,000 ringgit (USD $22,320) for legal costs. Anwar, who served as deputy premier under Mahathir until 1998, had previously sued Mahathir for defamation in 1999, but the case was rejected at the time as "unsustainable."

Anwar is currently facing trial on charges of sodomizing his former aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008. He has described the charges as a farce aimed at preventing him from taking his seat in Parliament [official website] following gains made by his party in the 2008 elections. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in February. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Malaysian government to drop all charges [JURIST report] against Anwar. HRW alleges that the trial has been "plagued by serious due process problems and government interference" and that the government should therefore drop all charges against Anwar. Earlier that month, the Malaysian Federal Court rejected Anwar's claim [JURIST reports] that his 1998 removal from office was unconstitutional. He recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a 10-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges.

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