McCully expressed himself over Malaysian opposition leader’s sodomy conviction

February 12, 2015 3:26 am

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has voiced New Zealand’s concern over
the five-year jail sentence given to opposition leader Anwar
Ibrahim on a charge of sodomy.
Mr Anwar will begin his sentence
after Malaysia’s High Court rejected his final appeal, prompting
widespread outrage, with some suggesting he had been victim to Malaysian
authorities’ attempts to silence its most vocal critic.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been convicted of sodomy, prompting outrage. Photo / AP

Addressing the judges, Mr Anwar said: “You have become partners in in the murder of judicial independence.”
Mr
McCully responded to the court’s decision today, saying: “The severity
of his sentence, coupled with recent prosecution under the country’s
Sedition Act are of concern to New Zealand.”

He said Malaysia – currently a member of the Security
Council alongside New Zealand – was a prominent voice for moderation
and tolerance.
“In the spirit of promoting and
political freedoms we have registered our concerns with the Malaysian
Government and will continue to do so.”
New Zealand decriminalised homosexual acts in 1986.
Mr Anwar has protested his innocence and says charges against him were politically motivated.
He
was ousted as Deputy Prime Minister in 1998 after being imprisoned for
sodomy – a crime in Malaysia, but one for which suspects are rarely
prosecuted.
As his second prison sentence was announced in court,
Mr Anwar maintained his innocence, denouncing the charges as “a
fabrication”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Mr Anwar was accused of having unlawful intercourse
with his male political aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan during the
opposition election campaign in 2008.
He was cleared by the High Court in 2012 but the acquittal was overturned in March last year.
Hundreds of human rights campaigners and Mr Anwar’s supporters gathered outside the High Court, demanding his release.
Malaysian
human rights group Suaram said that the political nature of the trial
was apparent from the fact that Mr Saiful had met the Prime Minister
before making an official police complaint.

Malaysian police officers struggle with supporters of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim outside Malaysia's top court yesterday. Photo / AP
Malaysian police officers struggle
with supporters of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim outside
Malaysia’s top court yesterday. Photo / AP
Amnesty International labelled the court’s decision
as “an oppressive ruling that will have a chilling effect on freedom of
expression in the country”.
Richard Bennett, Amnesty’s Asia
Pacific Director, said the judgement was “deplorable” and “just the
latest chapter in the Malaysian authorities’ relentless attempts to
silence government critics”.
He added: “The sodomy charges … have always been politically motivated, and he should be released immediately.”
A
White House statement said US President Barack Obama was “deeply
disappointed with Mr Anwar’s conviction” and that the trial “raised a
number of serious concerns about the fairness of the judicial system in
Malaysia”.

A supporter of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim cries while saying a prayer outside Malaysia's top court yesterday. Photo / AP
A supporter of Malaysian opposition
leader Anwar Ibrahim cries while saying a prayer outside Malaysia’s top
court yesterday. Photo / AP
Mr Saiful, who was 23 at the time he worked for Mr
Anwar, said in a blog post on Tuesday that he was thankful for the
judgment made.
“What is important is that I and my family can now move forward,” he wrote.
The Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office said the case had been brought by an individual, not the government.
“It
is beyond reasonable doubt that (Mr Saiful) was sodomised by the
appellant,” said Justice Arifin Zakat, who delivered Mr Anwar’s
sentence: “The appeal is dismissed.”

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