The New York Times: “Convicted of Sodomy, Malaysian Opposition Leader Loses Bid for Freedom”

By Mike Ives | December 14, 2016

HONG KONG — A Malaysian court on Wednesday upheld a sodomy conviction for Anwar Ibrahim, the jailed leader of the country’s opposition, bringing to a close a prolonged legal battle and sidelining a charismatic official ahead of an election in which he had hoped to challenge the scandal-ridden prime minister.

A lower court had sentenced Mr. Anwar to five years in prison in 2014, and the Federal Court upheld the sentence last year, prompting Mr. Anwar to call for a review. His lawyers have argued, in part, that the prosecution’s case had been based on a political conspiracy. But the Federal Court rejected their arguments in its decision on Wednesday.

Adib Zalkapli, a political analyst with the Singapore-based consulting firm Vriens & Partners in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, said that the verdict exhausted Mr. Anwar’s legal options and that he would probably not be released from prison until at least June 2018 — after the expected date of the country’s next general election.

“It makes a good opening line to Anwar’s political obituary,” Mr. Zalkapli said.

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During a court appearance in the capital in September, Mr. Anwar publicly shook hands with Mr. Mahathir in an attempt to project unity against Mr. Najib, who is now their common opponent.

But James Chin, the director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania in Australia, said that the new alliance between the two men would have been strained had Mr. Anwar been released.

“Mahathir is trying to play the role Anwar was playing: He’s trying to cobble all the opposition parties together as a united front” against Mr. Najib’s governing coalition, Mr. Chin said. “If Anwar comes out of prison, then Mahathir’s role will disappear.”

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