Police Investigation of Anwar Ibrahim Lacks Credibility
[New York, August 7, 2008] – The Malaysian government should immediately withdraw politically motivated charges against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Human Rights Watch said today. Police served Anwar, who is running for office, with an order to appear in Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court on August 7, 2008, under a colonial-era law that criminalizes homosexual conduct.
But several instances of misconduct around the investigation into allegations that Anwar had sexual relations with a male former aide show the charges are aimed at preventing Anwar from leading a new government. Police handled the inquiry improperly, while government officials interfered in it and tried to publicly intimidate and embarrass Anwar. On August 26, Anwar is due to run in a by-election for the constituency vacated on July 31 by his wife, Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. On August 6, police ordered him to appear in Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court to face charges under section 377 of Malaysia’s criminal code, which criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”
“The Malaysian government appears to be manipulating the legal system to shore up support for its continued rule and undermine the opposition,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This case is really about preventing challenges to the government’s rule.”
There is no legal impediment to Anwar’s running in the by-election, but denial of bail would prevent him from campaigning. Although a “sodomy charge” is a non-bailable offense, common practice has been for bail to be granted. Given Anwar’s high public profile, Human Rights Watch said that bail should be granted, as there is no evidence that he is a flight risk or will intimidate the complainant or any witnesses.