Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim failed to win a postponement in his sodomy trial on Wednesday after his chief lawyer was forced to withdraw due to illness.
The High Court ordered Anwar's legal team to proceed with the case, starting with an application to force the prosecution to disclose evidence including medical reports relating to the charges.
"I am confident there will be no injustice. The request for adjournment is denied and the case will go on," said Judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohamad Diah.
Sivarasa Rasiah, a lawyer for Anwar who insists the charges are a conspiracy to neutralise him politically, told the court the defence team would proceed "but under protest".
"This is bad news for me.... I had great confidence in him," Anwar said of his lead counsel, Sulaiman Abdullah, who has been hospitalised with bouts of dizziness that already led to one postponement.
The 61-year-old opposition leader is accused of having sexual relations with a 24-year-old male aide. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
"As it stands, the vibes are not too good. I need time to consult with my lawyers but the judge wants to proceed," said Anwar, a former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed a decade ago on separate sodomy and corruption charges.
The earlier sex conviction was overturned in 2004, allowing him to go free after six years.
Anwar's opposition alliance stormed onto the political scene in landmark elections last year, winning control of five states and a third of seats in parliament in an unprecedented result over the Barisan Nasional coalition.
His lawyers will now push for disclosure of evidence including DNA samples, medical reports and CCTV footage which they say is critical to preparing their defence.
"I am concerned about an unfair trial... due to the unprofessional conduct of the prosecution," Anwar told reporters.
Human Rights Watch this week called on Malaysia to drop the "politically motivated" charges.
"This trial is a bald-faced attempt to permanently remove an opposition leader from Malaysian politics," said the US-based group's deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson.