Friday, March 7, 2014
Anwar given 5 years’ jail after appellate court reverses sodomy acquittal
PUTRAJAYA, March 7 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was today sentenced to five years’ jail after the Court of Appeal overturned his previous sodomy acquittal, ruling that the trial judge erred in rejecting DNA evidence adduced.
The three-men bench led by Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi, Datuk Aziah Ali and Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh unanimously decided that the High Court failed to “critically evaluate” the evidence submitted by government chemist Dr Seah Lay Hong.
The bench delivered their decision in 90 minutes after hearing submissions from both parties in yesterday and today.
Balia said that High Court Datuk Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah had wrongly concluded that investigating officer Jude Blacious Pereira may have compromised DNA samples submitted as evidence when he opened a sealed bag in which they were kept.
“We are of the view that had the learned judge properly and correctly appreciated that the so-called tampering was solely to P27 (the bag containing the test tubes holding the samples), he would not have come to the conclusion that by cutting open P27, the confidence and integrity of the samples was gone and the samples had been compromised before they reached PW5 (Dr Seah) for analysis,” Balia said.
Balia also dismissed the defence’s contention that the DNA samples had suffered no degradation despite being retrieved from the rectum of Anwar’s accuser, given the “impeccable credentials” of the government chemists.
“We unanimously allow this appeal and set aside the decision of the High Court. The respondent is hereby found guilty and convicted of the offence charged,” read Balia.
Anwar’s defence team then sought for an adjournment until next week to allow them to prepare for mitigation.
But Balia today insisted that Karpal Singh, who is leading Anwar’s defence, must submit mitigating circumstances in an hour’s time.
This led Anwar to react angrily by standing up and shouting out at the decision.
“Just do it now!” he exclaimed loudly, in apparent reference to the sentencing.
This prompted his tearful wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, along with daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar to rush to his side in an attempt to calm the opposition leader.
Karpal said that the defence was not prepared to mitigate the sentence, but Umno lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah who headed the prosecution objected to say the government’s appeal has been postponed since July last year.
Protests could also be heard from the gallery when Balia said that mitigation must be completed today.
“Why are you trying to rush?” an unidentified speaker asked loudly as a tense air descended over the courtroom.
“It’s [happening] all over again, after 15 years. They want to put me in the lockup. That’s why they want to go ahead with the mitigation,” Anwar said today, referring to his first sodomy conviction in 1999.
The opposition leader has repeatedly claimed that the charge is politically motivated.
Just before the proceedings were about to resume more than a dozen police officers filed into the courtroom that was already packed with reporters, MPs, party members and supporters.
As the session resumed, Karpal told judges that Anwar suffers from “serious ailments” such high blood pressure, heart condition and a spinal problem, and that the defence needed time to prepare Anwar’s medical report before mitigating the sentencing.
But Balia concurred with Shafee that a medical report is not pertinent and it can be dealt with later, which prompted Karpal to question the “necessity to rush this case.”
“Under the circumstances of this case, a medical report is not necessary,” said Balia and asked Karpal to continue with the mitigation.
Balia then asked Shafee to proceed to state the appropriate punishment for the charge.
“The victim was 23-years-old at the time the offence was committed. He was employed by the accused.
“To add insult to the injury, the accused had called the victim a liar. No condom was used, no regard to sexually transmitted diseases. It was an irresponsible and dangerous act,” said Shafee.
This prompted Anwar to shout from the dock: “Sudahlah (Enough) Shafee, you have got what you wanted.”
Citing Anwar’s role as the parliamentary opposition leader, an adviser to the Selangor government and to-be candidate in Kajang, Shafee said the punishment accorded should be appropriate with the offence committed.
Shafee also said Anwar’s case was an issue of “national security”.
After consultation with the other judges, Balia handed down the sentence of five years’ imprisonment.
Balia then set RM10,000 as bail and instructed Anwar to make the payment on Monday.
On January 9, 2012, Anwar was acquitted of allegedly sodomising Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan at the Desa Damansara condominium on June 26, 2008.
High Court judge Mohd Zabidin had then freed Anwar on grounds that he could not rule out possible tampering of the DNA samples in the case.
The opposition leader was charged under Section 377B of the Penal Code and can be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years’ jail and whipping upon conviction.
The trial began 18 months after Anwar was charged in court in August 2008.
The former deputy prime minister and finance minister was charged with sodomy and corruption in 1998 after he was sacked from the cabinet. He was convicted and jailed for both offences but the sodomy charge was overturned.
Anwar was freed in September 2004 after spending six years in jail and rose to limelight by winning back his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat in a by-election in 2008, which he defended in May 5 national polls.