Anwar acquitted in sodomy trial

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim today has been acquitted by a High Court of the sodomy charges by his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari, a verdict sure to strengthen the opposition alliance ahead of the general elections which could be announced anytime this year.

High Court Judge Justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah took three minutes to deliver his most awaited judgment to a packed court house and found him not guilty of sodomising his former aide.

The Judge said there were no collaborating evidence to support 26-year-old Saiful`s testimony. "The court cannot be 100 per cent certain that DNA was not contaminated," the judge said.

"And because it was a sexual offence, the court is reluctant to convict on uncorroborated evidence," he said.

The 64-year-old Anwar immediately hugged his children who were crying over the verdict. He also shook hands with the prosecution team.

The trial has riveted Malaysia and sparked charges of a government set-up to cripple the Anwar-led opposition. It is the second sodomy verdict in a dozen years for Anwar.

Hours before the verdict, thousands of supporters assembled the Jalan Duta court, awaiting the verdict in his sodomy trial.

They carried banners saying "free Anwar" and shouted slogans denouncing the trial, with some chanting "reformasi" (reform), the battle cry of Anwar supporters after his spectacular ousting as deputy prime minister and leader-to-be in the late 1990s.

S Anwar, who served as Deputy Prime Minister from 1993 to 1998, was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption in 1999 and to another nine years for sodomy in 2000.

In 2004, the Federal Court reversed the second conviction and he was released. Sodomy is illegal in this Muslim country though few are ever prosecuted. Mohd Saiful, who accused Anwar of sodomy, tweeted that he remains calm over the verdict that dismissed his charge.

Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur police chief said officials were investigating an explosion at a car park about 400 metre from court complex. The bomb squad and forensics team were at the scene.