Today must have seemed horribly familiar to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as he faced sodomy charges for the second time in 10 years. But having faced it before in 1998, the veteran politician is now better armed to meet the latest onslaught of what he claims to be a malicious attempt to assassinate his character just as he is about to contest a by-election in Permatang Pauh, Penang which will likely pave his entry into Parliament. "In this country, with this charge, nothing surprises me anymore," Anwar told reporters inside Sessions Criminal Court 1 at the Duta Court Complex here this morning. "Until last night, the prime minister was still talking about rape. And now, it's consensual," he added, referring to the sodomy charge against him, made under Section 377B of the Penal Code, which refers to a charge of sodomy by consent. In Malaysia, sodomy, regardless of whether it is carried out between consenting adults or otherwise, is a crime. "If it is consensual, both should be charged," Anwar contended. Calling the charge "ridiculous", he said that after 1998 nobody believes in the charge anymore, "except Dolah". Meanwhile, Home Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, at a press conference nearby the court complex, commented that Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, a 23-year-old former male aide, should not be charged because he was the complainant. In response to the minister's statement, Anwar's lawyer Sankara Nair fired back: "In many cases, the complainant is lying. If a complainant is lying, he should be charged. So why in this case do we believe Saiful, but not Anwar?" Anwar's courtroom drama today began a few minutes after 10am, when residing Sessions Court judge S.M. Komathy Suppiah stepped inside the smallish room crammed with lawyers, reporters and prominent members of Pakatan Rakyat, including the DAP’s Lim Kit Siang and his son Guan Eng; and Pas's Dr Lo' Lo' Ghazali, the MP for Titiwangsa, and Dr Dzulkifly Ahmad (Kuala Selangor MP).
When the court officer read the charge aloud to him, a smartly dressed and collected Anwar replied: "This is a malicious and treacherous slander. I am not guilty of the charge." Speaking to reporters inside the courtroom while waiting for his release papers to be processed, he remarked on the difference. "Before, when they charged me, I was in prison and had very limited access to lawyers," Anwar said in reference to Sodomy I. Today, he has a battalion of lawyers at his disposal. The nine-member defence panel, led by an eloquent Sulaiman Abdullah, successfully argued their way to get him released on a personal bond without having to fork out any money or hand over his passport. Anwar was amused by the prosecution's handling of the bail argument. They were unable to convince the judge why Anwar should not be allowed unconditional bail. Sulaiman had argued impassionatedly in support of his client's character and past co-operation with the police to assist in their investigations, which was attested by DSP Jude Pereira, the investigating officer in the Sodomy II case. "I don't think they came prepared. I believe the A-G's Chambers are still under instructions. This is clearly a political game. The charge is clearly to embarrass me," said Anwar, adding "I'm not embarrassed by it." Judge Komathy, in making her decision, said: "It is an elementary principle in the criminal justice process that a man is innocent until proven guilty. I do not think there is any likelihood that Datuk Seri will abscond. I'm going to release him on a personal bond for the sum of RM20,000 without surety." The court gallery burst into raucous applause at her statement. Anwar was pleased with the judge's decision. "She is a decent lady," he said, commenting on the way she had handled the court proceedings this morning, allowing both the prosecution and the defence team to argue the details of his bail. Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail too commended the judge for her fairness, as did DAP supremo and Ipoh Timur parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang.
"I think it is as it should be," commented Lim senior to The Malaysian Insider on Komathy's decision to allow Anwar out on a personal bond for the sum of RM20,000 but without surety. "Anwar should not have been charged in the first place. I will call on the Solicitor-General in the Attorney-General's Chambers to reconsider that they dump the prosecution altogether. It's not good for the country to have another cause celebre which puts our execution of justice in the dock," he added. Gary Gray, a political officer holding a watching brief for the US Embassy here who was also in the courtroom, remarked: "We're obviously watching the case closely. We're very happy so long as the due process of law is followed." However, Anwar himself at the end of today's court hearing, has already moved on to the next important step, campaigning in the upcoming Permatang Pauh by-election. Despite having the hometown advantage, he is not taking things lightly. He will be homeward bound this Saturday to begin what many are already calling the "Mother of All By-Elections".
Source - http://themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/headlines/42-lead-stories/2660-back-to-the-future-but-better-prepared-this-time