KUALA LUMPUR – Acquittal or jail? Come Tuesday (Feb 10) Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who was convicted by the Appeals Court of having sodomised his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan will know whether he will be spending time behind bars or walk free.
This will be answered on Feb 10 as the Federal Court will announce the much-awaited verdict on Anwar’s final appeal against his conviction and five-year jail sentence for sodomising Mohd Saiful, seven years ago.
One of Anwar’s lawyers, Ramkarpal Singh Deo, when contacted by Bernama, said the defence team “was confident that the verdict will be in their client’s favour”.
Asked whether the defence would file a review against the apex court’s ruling if Anwar lost in his final appeal, Ramkarpal said it all depended on the grounds of the judgment, which they would need to study first before deciding to file a review.
Rule 137 of the Federal Court Rules 1995 allows the losing party to seek a review of a Federal Court decision.
Although the Federal Court has the jurisdiction to review its own decision to prevent injustice and abuse of the court process, generally this will only be exercised in very exceptional circumstances.
Lawyer Zamri Idrus, who is holding a watching brief for Mohd Saiful, said he left it to the court’s discretion in making the ruling based on the authorities cited during the submissions and evidence presented in court.
On Nov 7, last year, a five-member panel of the Federal Court led by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria reserved its decision after hearing submissions from Anwar’s 15-strong defence team led by lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, a former Federal Court judge.
The team also included three children of the late lawyer Karpal Singh who was leading Anwar’s defence team in the case until his untimely death on April 17, 2014. The senior lawyer was killed in a road accident in Perak.
They are Ramkarpal Singh Deo, Sangeet Kaur Deo and Gobind Singh Deo while senior lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah led the prosecution team.
The other four judges on the panel were Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and Federal Court judges Tan Sri Abdull Hamid Embong, Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar and Datuk Ramly Ali.
The hearing of Anwar’s appeal which was initially set for two days from Oct 28, 2014 dragged on for eight days as the defence and prosecution presented lengthy submissions and many legal cases were cited.
The highest court in the country will make its ruling on whether to allow or dismiss Anwar’s appeal to set aside his conviction and jail sentence imposed by the Court of Appeal on March 7 last year, after it had overturned a High Court decision to acquit him.
If Anwar loses his appeal, he will be disqualified as the member of parliament (MP) for Permatang Pauh as per Article 48(1)(e) of the Federal Constitution, which states that an MP would be disqualified if he or she is sentenced to a jail term of more than a year, or fined more than RM2,000.
The prosecution has also filed a cross-appeal to enhance the jail sentence. However, the matter will only be heard if the Federal Court upholds the decision of the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal had found Anwar, 67, guilty of having sodomised Mohd Saiful, 27, at Unit 11-5-1 of Desa Damansara Condominium in Jalan Setiakasih, Bukit Damansara, here, between 3.10pm and 4.30pm on June 26, 2008.
The charge, under Section 377B of the Penal Code, carries a jail sentence of up to 20 years and whipping, upon conviction.
A total of 27 prosecution witnesses including star witness, Mohd Saiful, and eight defence witnesses including Anwar testified in the trial that took almost three years at the High Court which received attraction worldwide.
On Jan 9, 2012, the High Court acquitted and discharged Anwar of the charge on the grounds that the court could not be 100 per cent certain on the integrity of samples taken for DNA testing from the alleged victim.
The court had ruled that the samples could have been compromised before they reached the Chemistry Department for analysis.
However, the Court of Appeal in convicting Anwar on the sodomy charge, held that the trial judge had erred in his findings about the samples which were based on the evidence of two expert witnesses called by the defence.
This is the second sodomy case against Anwar. In the first case, he was found guilty of having sodomised his family’s driver, Azizan Abu Bakar, at Tivoli Villa, here, in 1994, and was sentenced to nine years’ jail by the High Court on Aug 8, 2000.
The High Court had ordered Anwar to serve the sentence after the completion of his six-year jail term for corruption. He was found guilty on four charges of corruption on April 4, 1999.
However, after spending nearly six years in jail for corruption, Anwar was released on Sept 2, 2004 as the Federal Court, led by Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad who went on to become chief justice, overturned his conviction and set aside the jail sentence on the charge of having sodomised Azizan, in a 2-1 majority decision.
Abdul Hamid and Judge Tengku Baharudin Shah Tengku Mahmud ruled in Anwar’s favour while Judge Datin Paduka Rahmah Hussein dissented.
However, Abdul Hamid, who wrote the majority judgment, said the judges found that Anwar and co-accused Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja “were involved in homosexual activities” and that the judges were inclined to believe that the alleged sodomy did take place. – BERNAMA