Malaysia: HRW demands end to sodomy charges of ex-Deputy Prime Minister
Human Rights Watch has strongly demanded an end to the prosecution of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who was sentenced to five years in jail on sodomy charges.
The 66-year old opposition leader, a bitter rival of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, was sentenced on Friday 7 March under the country’s anti-gay law.
Mr Anwar has always maintained the charges are part of a political smear campaign.
He was originally accused of having sex with a male aide in 2008 but was acquitted by the high court in 2012. The government appealed against the decision.
Next week, the country’s top court is set to hear the appeal of his conviction, which could result in a sentence of up to 20 years in a cross-appeal.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said: “Prosecuting Anwar for something that should never be considered a crime shows how far the government is prepared to go to remove a political opponent.
“By using this law, the government is also putting the rights and freedoms of Malaysia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community at risk.
“Malaysian authorities should drop their case against Anwar Ibrahim or risk making a travesty of the country’s criminal justice system.
“This drawn-out political theater has long been exposed as an attempt by the government to take Malaysia’s most senior opposition leader out of political contention.”
Mr Anwar led the opposition to its strongest ever performance in the May 2013 general elections.
The court decision will affect Mr Anwar’s plans to compete in a key by-election in the state of Selangor this month.
Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia, punishable by up to 20 years in jail.
Same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in the country.
Mr Anwar has previously voiced his opposition to repealing the laws.