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Malaysia opposition leader cleared of sodomy charges

The Kuala Lumpur High Court [official website] on Monday acquitted Malaysian opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] of charges that he sodomized a former male political aide. High Court Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah said during the ruling that there was reasonable doubt [AP report] in the case because of unreliable DNA evidence. Anwar has consistently argued that the allegations were a politically motivated attempt to silence his opposition to the current administration. In response, Prime Minister Najib Razak [official profile] said Monday the accusations against the government were unfounded [Bernama report] because the ruling shows the independence of the judiciary from politics. After the verdict, Anwar announced that he planned to run in the upcoming elections and hoped to oust Razak from power. Under Malaysian law, sodomy is punishable by 20 years in prison regardless of consent. Amnesty International [advocacy website] praised the ruling and urged Malaysia to repeal its sodomy law [press release], calling the criminalization of adults' consensual sexual acts a human rights violation.

The two-year sodomy trial concluded last month when the prosecution delivered its closing arguments, following the defense's closing arguments in October and Anwar's testimony in August denying the charges [JURIST reports]. A Malaysian court ruled [JURIST report] in May that prosecutors had enough evidence to continue to pursue the sodomy case against Anwar. The opposition leader was arrested in July 2008 after he filed a lawsuit against his accuser [JURIST reports] a month earlier. In December 2010, 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. 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 10-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges.

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