09/15/2004, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Federal Court dismisses Anwar's corruption appeal

The former deputy prime minister barred from electoral politics

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/AP) - Malaysia's highest court upheld former deputy leader Anwar Ibrahim's conviction for corruption on Wednesday, stopping him from returning to electoral politics until 2008 despite his recent release from prison.

Judge Alaudin Mohmad Sherif said Wednesday that "there was no fraud, suppression of evidence, or new evidence which would merit the court to entertain reopening or reviewing the case."

The court rejected an appeal by Mr Anwar to overturn his conviction for corruption, two weeks after a separate panel decided to overturn a sodomy conviction that freed him from at least five more years in prison. The unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel of the Federal Court was Mr Anwar's second setback in two days, following a decision by the supreme council of Malaysia's ruling party (Umno - United Malays National Organization) to not take him back into the party. Yesterday, Umno incoming president, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said all council members concurred with him after he gave them his views. "I explained my earlier statement about there being no deal with Anwar regarding his re-entry into Umno. I told members there was no plan to bring him back and they agreed with me. That means the door is closed to him, for now", Badawi said.  Asked whether he was concerned of Anwar's influence if he remained outside the party, Abdullah said: "we are not worried. Our party is very strong. It is the biggest party in Malaysia and we are the government." 

Mr Anwar was the deputy prime minister of Mahathir Mohamad  before his dramatic downfall in 1998. He needed to be cleared on both charges to escape the five-year ban against convicted felons from seeking elected office or holding party posts. The ban on active politics takes effect from the end of his corruption sentence last year, meaning it will hold until April 2008. Mr Anwar's only hope before then would lie in a full pardon from King Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail. "Anwar will not ask for a pardon," said Ezam Mohamad Noor, youth leader of the Justice Party, led by Anwar's wife. "His conscience is clear that he has not done anything wrong. Asking for a pardon is an admission of guilt." Anwar might accept a pardon if initiated by the government or royalty, Ezam said.

Meanwhile, the Mr Anwar, 57, is recovering from back surgery in Germany and was not in the courtroom. He has long contended that both convictions resulted from a conspiracy orchestrated by his one-time mentor, retired Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who fired him in a power struggle in 1998. In the same year, the former deputy prime minister was sacked from the Umno and following that, he headed a reform movement which joined forces with the opposition and went against Umno and Barisan Nasional. Supporters said that Anwar can serve as an adviser to an opposition divided between his wife's organization, Islamic fundamentalists and a secular, ethnic-Chinese-dominated party. (MA)

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