Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was charged with sodomy in court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to the offence, which carries a penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
"This is a slander, it is a malicious allegation and I am not guilty," Anwar said from the dock after the reading of the charge that alleged he sodomised 23-year-old aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan on June 26.
Anwar, a former deputy premier who was jailed a decade ago on sodomy charges that were later overturned, was hit with the new accusations after announcing he was poised to seize power with the help of government defectors.
Despite fears he would not be given bail, Sessions Court judge Komathy Suppiah ordered Anwar could go free on a 20,000 ringgit (6,100 dollars) personal bond until the next hearing on September 10.
"A man is innocent until proven guilty. I don't think there's any likelihood that Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim will abscond. I will release him on a personal bond," she said, using his honorific title.
"There is no possibility of Dato Seri absconding or tampering with evidence," she added.
Anwar welcomed the decision, which allows him to campaign for an August 26 by-election expected to return him to parliament, and said the prosecution had been ill-prepared and unable to argue the bail issue.
"You can see how haphazard this has been. I am pleased with the decision and will proceed with my campaign," he said.
Anwar said on Wednesday there was no evidence to support the allegations and accused Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of engineering the charges to try to sabotage the by-election.
Security was tight outside the packed courtroom, which was guarded by about 200 police -- mostly riot squad officers.
In anticipation of protests by Anwar's supporters, major roads leading into the capital Kuala Lumpur were locked down with roadblocks, causing major traffic jams.