KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was acquitted yesterday on sodomy charges, surprising good news not just for him but for the very government he wants to topple.
The verdict avoids the public outrage that a conviction might have inspired and it also buttresses Prime Minister Najib Razak’s assertions that he does not interfere with the judiciary and that his promises of ensuring civil liberties are serious.
After a two-year trial filled with explicit sexual allegations that captivated and polarized the country, a High Court judge took only two minutes to deliver the verdict. He ruled that the prosecution’s DNA evidence was not enough to convict the 64-year-old Anwar of sodomizing a male former aide who at the time was 23.
The judgment is a win for both sides, said James Chin, a political science lecturer at Monash University in Malaysia. “It has removed a hot spot for the government. Anwar is also free to concentrate on the elections,’’ Chin said.
The verdict also will calm foreign investors who were spooked by the possibility of unrest had Anwar been jailed ahead of general elections expected this year. Many Malaysians also voiced relief.
The United States welcomed the closure of the case, which the State Department said it had followed closely.
Anwar has long maintained that the charges were trumped up and that he was framed by Najib’s long-ruling coalition to prevent his opposition alliance from coming to power.