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Malaysia's Anwar ordered to enter defense in sodomy case.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 Kyodo

A Malaysian judge on Monday ruled that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is on trial on sodomy charges, has a case to answer.

After hearing testimony from 27 prosecution witnesses, Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohamad Diah told the court he found ''a prima facie case has been made out against the accused'' and called on Anwar to enter a defense.

The ruling dashes Anwar's hope for an early end to what has been a politically charged trial.

The 63-year-old former deputy prime minister is accused of committing ''carnal intercourse against the order of nature'' with former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 25, in June 2008. Sodomy, even if consensual, is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in jail in this predominantly Muslim country.

The judge said he believed Saiful to be a ''credible witness'' and his evidence to be ''reliable.'' The prosecution, he said, has presented enough corroborative evidence.

Zabidin fixed June 6 to 30 to hear the defense's case.

This is the second time for Anwar to be charged with sodomy. He spent six years in prison before his previous conviction for sodomy was overturned in 2004. Then, as now, he claimed to be a victim of a high-level political conspiracy.

''Of course, it does not come as a surprise the fact that the judge gave this ruling,'' Anwar told reporters as scores of supporters chanted ''Reformasi'' (Reform) outside the court house.

He said his position is now ''very precarious.''

''What is clearly shocking is that he (the judge) has virtually prejudged the case. He has taken not only prima facie but extended beyond that, taking all the ingredients of the charge as something factual, accepting beyond reasonable doubt which means it is already a conviction,'' Anwar said.

Monday's ruling will set the stage for another long hearing that could distract Anwar from rallying his party to ahead of the next general election, which many political pundits expect Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to call within this year.

Anwar was instrumental in bringing together an ideologically disparate three-party opposition alliance to achieve their greatest electoral feat in the 2008 general election.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:May 16, 2011
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