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Malaysia opposition leader Anwar fails to remove judge in sodomy case

Malaysian opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] failed a third time Monday to remove the judge in his sodomy case. The charges against Anwar allege that he sodomized a former male political aide. Anwar argued that Judge Zabidin Mohamad Diah had convicted him [AFP report] before he had a chance to give his defense. He pointed to the judge's ruling last month that he enter his defense because the testimony of the aide was credible [JURIST report] and the prosecution had met its prima facie case. Judge Zabidin dismissed the application for his removal. Under Malaysian law, sodomy is punishable by 20 years in prison regardless of consent. Anwar has consistently argued that the allegations are a politically motivated attempt to silence the opposition. This is the second sodomy case launched against Anwar who is expected to take the stand during his defense.

Last month, the court ordered the trial to continue and that Anwar enter his defense. He was arrested in July 2008 after he filed a lawsuit against his accuser [JURIST reports] in late June. Last December, Anwar filed a complaint [JURIST report] in a Malaysian court over a WikiLeaks [website] cable published by Australian newspapers stating he had engaged in sodomy. The leaked US diplomatic cable claimed Australia's Office of National Assessments [official website] had concluded, in agreement with Singapore's Intelligence Agency, that the sodomy charges against Anwar were the result of a set-up, but that he was in fact guilty of committing the acts. Last year, the Federal Court of Malaysia [official website], the country's highest court, rejected Anwar's 2006 defamation suit against against former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad [BBC profile] for allegedly suggesting at a human rights conference that Anwar was unfit for office because of his supposed homosexuality. Anwar was Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister under former Mahathir Mohamad until he was fired in 1998 following earlier sodomy charges of which he was initially convicted but later acquitted. He reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a ten-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges.

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