Malaysian PM: Anwar Acquittal Clears Government of Wrongdoing

Posted January 9th, 2012 at 2:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says the acquittal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges clears the government of long-standing accusations that it used political influence to sway the courts to convict Anwar and remove him from political life.

Mr. Najib told Malaysia's Bernama news agency that “today's verdict shows once again, that despite what many have claimed, the Malaysian judiciary is an independent institution…..” He also said he respects the decision of the High Court, which was announced Monday.

The prime minister's comments came hours after the court ruled that DNA evidence used by prosecutors against Anwar was not reliable. The judge also said there was not enough corroborating evidence proving that Anwar had sex with a former male aide in 2008. The former deputy prime minister faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.

News of the acquittal drew praise from the United States and the European Union. The U.S. State Department described the ruling as an opportunity for Malaysians to move forward. EU officials also hailed the move and called on the Malaysian government to scrap its laws against homosexuality.

Anwar told reporters in Kuala Lumpur he was surprised by the ruling and said it ends years of personal anguish.

“I thank God for this great news. I'm finally vindicated. It is a tough few years for us, continuous smearing, scurrilous attacks on my character, and I thank (his wife Wan) Azizah and my family for being steadfast with me.”

He also said the ruling frees him to focus on trying to topple the prime minister's long-ruling coalition in upcoming general elections.

“Well, my supporters are ecstatic. This is the freedom not only for Anwar but also for Malaysian people. And I think they see this as an opportunity for me to work together with the leaders of political parties and to move.”

Anwar was first forced to resign in 1998 after his conviction on an earlier sodomy charge. The Supreme Court later threw out that verdict. He has steadfastly denied all the sodomy charges, saying Prime Minister Najib — his chief political rival — concocted them.

The current case centered on testimony from a former aide who told police that he and Anwar had a sexual encounter in Kuala Lumpur in 2008. However, in its ruling, the Kuala Lumpur High Court said the prosecution's DNA evidence was unreliable and that other evidence was insufficient.