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Malaysia’s Political Sodomy Trial Ends in Acquittal

Malaysia’s Political Sodomy Trial Ends in Acquittal

The Malaysian opposition leader has been found ‘not guilty’ in the finale to an epic sodomy trial.

The case against Anwar Ibrahim has always been thought political and a guilty verdict was expected, but in a break from past statements, Ibrahim described the anti-gay law in the run up to the verdict as “archaic” and “unjust.”

He told Associated Press last week that the case showed how the colonial era law could be “abused to show violent discrimination or intolerance.”

“Our present laws are deemed to be rather archaic. The whole idea (should be) to encourage people to understand, not to be seen to be so punitive. In this case it’s worse; you can go and probe and peep into people’s bedrooms just to try to smear them,” he said.

Ibrahim has previously been careful to distance himself from the nascent LGBT movement in Malaysia. But the country has shown increasing tolerance and debate around LGBT issues, though this has created a backlash including proposals from two Malaysian states to increase penalties and, as in Russia, ban LGBT organizing.

Anwar faced up to 20 years’ imprisonment if convicted. Another possible punishment of corporal punishment by whipping is reported to have only been ruled out on account of his age.

Ibrahim was first imprisoned for corruption and sodomy charges in 1999 then freed in 2004,  only to be arrested again in 2008 after an aide claimed sexual assault. A former Deputy Prime Minister, the 1999 charges followed after he fell out with the former leader Mahathir Mohammad.

Amnesty International described the prosecution as politically motivated.

“Anwar’s acquittal is a welcome move. Fortunately, the Malaysian authorities have refrained from turning the country’s opposition leader into a prisoner of conscience,” said Donna Guest, deputy Asia-Pacific director at Amnesty International.

“The government must now repeal the sodomy law, a repressive statute that enabled this politically motivated persecution.”

Malaysia’s Information minister, Rais Yatim, said of the verdict:

“Malaysia has an independent judiciary, and this verdict proves that the government does not hold sway over judges’ decisions.”

Ibrahim may still face further prosecution as a sex tape claimed to feature him is circulating on the Internet. The Attorney General also refused to say whether he will appeal the acquittal.

Related stories:

Banned ‘Sexuality’ Festival in Malaysia Prompts Debate, Backlash

Sexuality Rights Festival Banned in Malaysia

The Strange Treatment of Trans People in Malaysia’s Media

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16 comments

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8:02PM PST on Dec 12, 2012

Good. It was just a ridiculous charge that was trumped anyway to smear his name by people that can't formulate an articluate platform so they must resort to such shameful tactics.

9:50AM PST on Jan 14, 2012

Now, let's see if Malaysia can actually live up to its claims of tolerance and get rid of the anti-gay laws. There is no real religious freedom either. Muslims cannot change religion (normal in Islamic ruled countries). They can't blame their bigotries on 'colonial rule'. This is all part of Islamic Law/Sharia.

This poor man has been imprisoned and harrassed on and off for over 11 years! Yet, if he'd have lusted after 4 women & 'married' them, he would have been within their laws & considered normal. What strange contradictions and values.

Good luck to him and to all the oppressed people in Malaysia. May they soon get their freedoms. All of them.

6:57PM PST on Jan 11, 2012

One step up and two steps back, but the steps are going global. The backlash is a nightmare. No birth is without pain, but this one is costing lives.

1:42PM PST on Jan 11, 2012

what a waste of public money, im glad it was dropped

12:18AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

i must be in a time warp....its something well before B.C....i cant beleive there are issues in 2012 of this nature!!! freedom of choice where is it?!

8:07PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

What news of encouragement! When I read previously that there was to be another court hearing about Anwar, I was sure there would be another politically motivated ruling of "guilty". This is a good step forward! I pray that there will be more political freedom for people in Malaysia!

5:30PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

Thanks for the post.

3:56PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

Noted and thanks

2:32PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

Good to see justice win in this case - there seems to be a lot to be done for the sexual minorities in Malaysia when you still have such an archaic and inane law as a law against sodomy in place. There is no sane justification for legislating against concentual sexual acts between adults.

I don't have to be gay to understand and empathize with sexual minorities, and the completely nonsensical stigma they must fight - I know gay people that are intelligent, good people, and made none the less so by their sexual identity. It's no more of my business what kind of sex they engage with with willing partners, than it is their business what kind of sex I engage in with willing partners. It seems utterly absurd to me that people should concern themselves so with the sex lives of others, and feel the need to punish and discriminate against people not like them.

11:05AM PST on Jan 10, 2012

The allegation that he "sexually assaulted" an aide was found by the court as politically motivated and therefore unfounded. It is unfortunate that some people will falsely accuse another with sexual assault or rape. It hurts those who have real claims.

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