Malaysian political leader pleads not guilty to sodomy charge

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Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim been bailed by a court in Malaysia after pleading not guilty to charges of sodomy.

His trial will begin on September 10th.

In June the 60-year-old politician, a former deputy Prime Minister, was accused by his assistant and temporarily sought refuge in the Turkish embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Human rights groups have claimed the charges are politically motivated.

In court Anwar called the allegations against him malicious and pleaded not guilty.

“This is clearly a political game,” he said. “The charge is meant to embarrass me and nothing else.”

The allegations mirror a trail in 1988 that saw him locked up for six years.

“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 for Human Rights Watch.

“This case is really about preventing challenges to the government’s rule. The ruling coalition has held power since independence from Britain half a century ago.”

Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is a crime in Malaysia, which has a Muslim majority. It is punishable by 20 years imprisonment.

Anwar was jailed in 1998 after his former boss, Mahathir Mohammad, then Prime Minister of Malaysia, sacked him in order to stop his rise to power, claiming he is gay.

Human rights groups said that the 1998 charges that Anwar had sex with his brother, his driver and his speechwriter are untrue, and were used to smear him to stop him from taking power.

He was initially given 15 years for sodomy and corruption but the ruling was overturned in 2004.

The Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, denied the charges are political. Later this month Anwar is due to stand in a by-election for a parliamentary seat vacated by his wife.

“How could I insist that he be charged? The police are not so stupid to simply charge if there is no evidence,” the Prime Minister said, according to the New Straits Times.