KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been charged with sodomy in court 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,” Mr Anwar said from the dock in the Sessions Court after the reading of the charge.
It is alleged he sodomised 23-year-old aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan on June 26.
Mr Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, was jailed a decade ago on sodomy charges that were later overturned. The latest charge comes just weeks before a by-election that was expected to return him to parliament.
In Malaysia, a conservative and predominantly Muslim country, sodomy is outlawed and punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.
Mr Anwar has denied the accusations, which he said were fabricated to prevent him from toppling the Government, after the March elections handed the opposition an unprecedented one-third of the parliamentary seats. He announced last week he would contest an August 26 by-election for a seat vacated by his wife.
The Election Commission said Mr Anwar could still contest the by-election after the charges were laid, although he would be disqualified if he was found guilty and jailed. [more]