Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's lawyers will rely heavily on a government forensic report that found no conclusive evidence of sodomy to defend him in a sex trial that critics say is politically motivated to stem his growing popularity.
Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, says the trial is part of a government conspiracy to undermine his three-party opposition alliance, which made massive electoral gains last year. Government officials have denied any plot, but Anwar's supporters see it as a vendetta. Sodomy is a crime in this Muslim-majority country, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The trial will not start for a few months until technical objections by both sides are cleared.
The forensic report, prepared by three doctors at the government-run Kuala Lumpur Hospital, was handed to the defense team recently by the prosecutors following a court order, Anwar's lawyer R. Sivarasa told The Associated Press on Thursday. The report, stamped "confidential," has not been made public but a copy was obtained by the AP. In the proctoscopy examination column, the report found that there was "no conclusive clinical findings suggestive of penetration ... on the body of the patient." Prosecutors declined to comment on the case. But two forensic experts told the AP that lack of evidence suggesting penetration doesn't rule out sodomy. They declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of the case.
The report noted that a subsequent laboratory examination of swabs, taken two days after the alleged sodomy _ found foreign DNA, which prosecutors are expected to say belongs to Anwar. But the defense will contend that it was fabricated and planted, noting the samples were taken two days after the alleged act and spent a weekend in police care before being transferred to a forensic laboratory.
"We will show that they made a case out of nothing. To prove sodomy you have to show penetration. You must prove beyond reasonable doubt that sodomy was committed," said Sivarasa, a senior member of Anwar's People's Justice Party.
Anwar, 61, was charged last August with sodomizing a 24-year-old male former aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, on June 24, 2008. It is the second time that he has been accused of sodomy.
He spent six years in prison between 1998 and 2004 after being convicted of corruption and sodomizing his former family driver. The charges were brought amid a power struggle with then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Anwar, who was badly beaten in police custody, insisted he was framed. Malaysia's top court eventually overturned the conviction.
Sivarasa said that the events surrounding the accusation are suspicious, Saiful met Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was then the deputy prime minister, a few days before going to hospital to complain he had been sodomized; he also allegedly met a senior police officer in a hotel room the day before going to the hospital. Sivarasa said he will provide evidence in court to prove the meeting.