Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim refused to let prosecutors question him at his sodomy trial yesterday, choosing instead to deliver a long courtroom tirade accusing the judge and government of conspiring to send him “into political oblivion.”
Anwar had been expected to begin testifying at the trial, but he struck a defiant note by reading for more than an hour from a prepared text that maintained his government rivals fabricated the charge that he sodomized a 26-year-old male former aide.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and other officials have denied any plot.
“It is a vile and desperate attempt at character assassination,” the 64-year-old politician told the Kuala Lumpur High Court. “They can do all they want to assassinate and sully my character and threaten me with another 20 years in jail, but mark my words, they won’t be able to cow me into submission.”
Anwar was the defense’s first witness after the court ruled in June that prosecutors had established a credible case against him. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Anwar was charged with sodomy several months after his three-party opposition alliance wrested control of several states and more than one-third of parliamentary seats in landmark elections in 2008.
Anwar chose to speak from his lawyers’ table instead of the witness stand, preventing prosecutors from cross-examining him, because he was unhappy with how Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah had conducted the trial.
Quoting the Koran and Shakespeare in his speech, Anwar accused Diah of demonstrating a “complete lack of impartiality,” claiming the judge had allowed prosecutors to introduce allegedly tainted DNA evidence earlier in the trial.
“This entire process is -nothing but a conspiracy by [Najib] to send me into political oblivion by attempting once again to put me behind bars,” Anwar said.
It is the second time Anwar has been embroiled in a sex trial. He lost his post as Malaysian deputy prime minister in 1998 after being charged with sodomizing his family’s ex-driver and abusing his power to cover up his actions — both of which he denied. He was freed in 2004 after six years of imprisonment when a court overturned the sodomy conviction.
Anwar said his current accuser was merely “a pawn being employed by the shady plotters to achieve their devious ends.”
The man, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, has testified that Anwar coerced him into having sex in a Kuala Lumpur apartment in 2008. Sodomy, even consensual, is a crime in Malaysia.
The judge did not immediately respond to Anwar’s accusations yesterday, but has previously denied being biased.