In Brief

Anwar Ibrahim given five-year prison sentence for sodomy

Malaysian opposition leader accuses judges of 'murdering judicial independence and integrity'

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been sentenced to five years for sodomy by the country's highest court, despite accusations that the case is politically motivated.

The 67-year-old de facto Pakatan Rakyat leader was first accused of sodomising a former political aide seven years ago. He was acquitted in 2012, but this decision was overturned by the appeals court in March last year and upheld today by Malaysia's federal court.

After the verdict was delivered, Anwar said a tearful goodbye to his wife, children and grandchildren, reminding his grandson that he "must go to school", reports the Malaysian Insider.

He was overheard telling an opposition colleague: "I knew it was bad."

Outside the courtroom, hundreds of supporters chanted, as riot police prepared for any potential disturbance.

Anwar was the "rising star" of Malaysian politics in the mid-1990s before he fell out with then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1998, says The Guardian.

Since then, he has been targeted with successive prosecutions and spent several years in prison for alleged corruption and another case of sodomy, which is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

In the country's 2013 general election, Pakatan Rakyat won 48 per cent of the vote, posing a real possibility of a challenge to the Barisan Nasional coalition that has ruled Malaysia since 1957.

With a five-year prison sentence ahead, Anwar is expected to lose his parliamentary seat.

During the sentencing hearing, the opposition leader said the accusation was completely made up to stop his political career. He told the judges: "In bowing to the dictates of the political masters, you have become partners in crime for the murder of judicial independence and integrity."

Human Rights Watch described the court's "politically motivated" verdict as a "travesty" that would further undermine respect for rights and democracy in Malaysia.

One lawyer, Ramesh Sivakumar, told the Malaysian Insider that the verdict had also altered some of the fundamental legal principles in sexual offence cases. "The courts can now on completely disregard any need for corroborative evidence" he said. "To my mind, the bench has set [a] dangerous precedent on sexual offences which [are] easy to allege by a complaint but difficult to prove innocence by accused."

But in a statement published in the New Straits Times the government said the judges had reached their verdict "only after considering all the evidence in a balanced and objective manner".

A spokesperson also insisted the police report had been brought by the victim of a "serious sexual assault", not by the government.

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