Prosecutors yesterday dropped charges against the adopted brother of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim that the two had engaged in sodomy -- accusations that led to Anwar's 1998 ouster during a row with then-leader Mahathir Mohamad.
The charge was among several sodomy allegations cited at the time by Mahathir to claim that Anwar was a homosexual and that he was thus unfit to be a leader in the Muslim-majority country. The other charges have since been dropped.
Sessions Court judge Nursinah Adzmi acquitted and discharged Sukma Dermawan after deputy public prosecutor Hanafiah Zakaria told the court there was no evidence to support the charge that Sukma had engaged in sodomy with Anwar, defense lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said.
"It's been a tough battle, eight years of disappointment. We are glad justice has been done," Deo said. "The withdrawal by the prosecutors means there is no case against Sukma."
Anwar repeatedly maintained that the charges had been politically motivated and that he was the victim of a personal vendetta by Mahathir, saying that his disagreements with Mahathir's policies in dealing with the 1997 to 1998 Asian financial crisis had led to their falling out.
National news agency Bernama quoted Hanafiah as saying that the prosecution felt it was "inappropriate in the public interest to proceed with Sukma's trial."
The verdict comes at a time when Mahathir -- who retired in October 2003 after 22 years as prime minister -- is at loggerheads with the current administration of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
His accusations of corruption, nepotism and incompetence against Abdullah have provoked angry responses and rebuttals from ruling party members who were once staunch Mahathir loyalists.
Following the developments in court, the Indonesian-born Sukma, 45, walked out a free man after the brief hearing in his retrial on the charge that he committed an act of gross indecency by allowing Anwar to sodomize him.
The retrial was ordered by the Court of Appeal on June 14 after throwing out a previous conviction against Sukma in 1998, which was based on a guilty plea. Sukma later said the plea was coerced out of him by the police.