News / Asia

Malaysia Judiciary Criticized Over Anwar Ibrahim Verdict

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim gestures as he leaves a courthouse in Putrajaya, Malaysia, March 7, 2014.
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim gestures as he leaves a courthouse in Putrajaya, Malaysia, March 7, 2014.
Ron Corben
Legal advocates said an appeals court decision against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and a separate high court verdict involving his lawyer, Karpal Singh, mark a further setback to the independence of Malaysia judiciary's.

Last week, Anwar Ibrahim was convicted by the Court of Appeal on a charge of sodomy, overturning a High Court acquittal of 2012. He was sentenced to five years in jail, but may remain free on bail while he appeals the verdict.
 
Now Anwar's legal counsel Karpal Singh faces up to three years imprisonment on charges of sedition under a 1948 colonial era law, when the High Court in Kuala Lumpur passes sentencing Tuesday.
 
Singh is head of the opposition Democrat Party and the charges relate to comments he made regarding a constitutional issue involving the Sultan of Perak.  
 
Human rights and legal advocates have criticized the judicial decisions, calling the verdicts politically motivated.
 
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the U.S.-based rights group Human Rights Watch, said the verdicts appear to undermine the judiciaries' independence.

"You've taken down the head of the opposition in Anwar and you've taken down the president of the Democratic Action Party which is the second largest party in the opposition. This really is sort of trying to knock out the opposition using the courts and weaken them further so that they cannot cause problems," he said.
 
The sodomy charges against Anwar, dating back to 2008, were cleared by the High Court in 2012. The case followed similar charges brought against Anwar in the 1990s, along with corruption allegations.  
 
In 1999 he was sentenced to nine years jail for corruption and six years for sodomy, which is illegal in Muslim Malaysia. The country's Supreme Court overturned the conviction and he was released in 2004.
 
Anwar had been deputy prime minister under leader Mathathir Mohamad, before the two political leaders fell out over policies during Asia's financial crisis of the late 1990s. He had also accused the governing party of cronyism and nepotism and called for economic reforms.
 
Analysts claim the initial charges and conviction were also aimed at undermining Anwar's growing political popularity.
 
Since his release from jail Anwar has been rebuilding his political career and was preparing to contest a seat in the central state of Selangor on March 23.
 
Political analysts said Anwar was tipped to take the post of state chief minister.

According to Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific regional director for the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the judicial processes appeared directed at sidelining Anwar from politics.
 
"The timing of the case obviously and the speed with which at the end they moved through the conviction and the sentencing and not hearing the mitigation case at all, which means effectively Anwar is not going to be able to stand again for parliament and therefore is basically out of politics for a while. All this suggests very strongly that there is a political motive to this that this is not a proper case," stated Zarifi.
 
Legal observers said the 2004 Supreme Court decision to release Anwar from jail had raised expectations that Malaysia's judiciary had regained its independence after the political influence associated with the verdicts against Anwar in 1999.
 
Both Anwar and Karpal Singh are expected to appeal their convictions.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs