LATEST 0710 GMT
Anwar sodomy trial to go ahead
The trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges will go ahead after a court deemed prosecution witnesses "credible".
High court judge Zabidin Mohamed Diah on Monday decided to bring the case to trial, based on the authentication of witness testimony and DNA evidence.
Closing the hearing, Zabidin told a packed courtroom, "I find a prima facie case... has been made out against the accused," adding, "There is nothing improbable about his evidence. His evidence is reliable."
The charges allege that Anwar, 63, forcefully sodomised a former aide in June of 2008. If convicted, Anwar could be jailed for up to 20 years.
The case potentially gives a boost to Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak's government ahead of a possible general election later this year.
Immediately after the decision, Anwar told reporters that the finding was not unexpected: "Of course, it does not come as a surprise, the fact that the judge gave this ruling."
He added,"But what is clearly shocking is that he has virtually prejudged the case.
He has taken, not only prima facie but extended beyond that, all the ingredients of the charge as something factual, acceptable beyond reasonable doubt, which means it's already a conviction."
This is the second time the opposition leader has faced these charges.
In 1998 he was convicted of sodomy and spent six years in jail, until the conviction was overturned in 2004.
Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, whether or not between consenting adults.
While Anwar insists that the charges are a plot concocted to discredit him politically, he is now tasked with entering a plea.
The case could hand an electorial advantage to Najib's ruling Barisan Nasional party, should the prime minister choose to call snap elections - ahead of the 2013 end of his current term of office - later this year.
The trial would likely dent the chances of Anwar's People Justice Party (PJP), regarded as the link between a widely disparate three-party opposition coalition which has seen sharp differences over the use of Islamic criminal law and the rights of majority ethnic Malays.
While Barisan Nasional has been in power for over half a century, the PJP has recently been gaining ground since Najib has not delivered on several campaign promises regarding economic reforms.
The next phase of Anwar's trial is scheduled for June 6, according to court officials.
REUTERS, NEW YORK BUREAU AGENCY
LATEST 155 AM EDT (GMT -4)
Malaysia court rules case against Anwar to go ahead
(Reuters) - A Malaysian judge on Monday ordered a sodomy trial involving opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to proceed, setting the stage for a lengthy trial that could boost Prime Minister Najib Razak's government ahead of a possible snap election this year.
Judge Zabidin Mohamad Diah asked Anwar to enter his defense on sodomy allegations which will hurt his reputation among conservative ethnic Malays, damage the opposition's chances of wresting power and raise questions about the future of his political career.
"I find a prima facie case has been made out against the accused, therefore I call upon the accused to enter his defense," the judge told the court, dashing any hopes Anwar supporters had had of his dismissing the case altogether.
Sodomy carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' jail. The trial will take place from June 6-30.
"Of course it does not come as a surprise the fact that the judge gave this ruling," Anwar, 63, told reporters after the decision as hundreds of his supporters thronged the court compound shouting "Reformasi", the reform movement set up by Anwar after he was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998.
"But what is clearly shocking is that he has virtually prejudged the case. He has taken not only prima facie but extended beyond that, taking all the ingredients of the charge as something factual, acceptable beyond reasonable doubt, which means it's already a conviction."
Analysts said Monday's court ruling increased the chances of a general election this year, although one isn't due until 2013, with Najib expected to grab the chance to call for snap polls while the opposition's attention is diverted by the trial.
Anwar's People Justice party is regarded as the link that holds together a widely disparate three-party opposition coalition which has seen sharp differences over the use of Islamic criminal law and the rights of majority ethnic Malays.
"The outcome today provides the ruling party with some advantage, Anwar will be embroiled in the case and it will take a while for this case to reach its conclusion," said Ibrahim Suffian, director at the independent opinion polling firm Merdeka Center.
Once the rising star of Malaysian politics, Anwar was jailed for sodomy and corruption after he was sacked by former premier Mahathir Mohamad in 1998. He was freed in 2004 after the country's top court overturned his sodomy conviction.
Monday's decision comes after a recent allegation that Anwar was the man caught on tape having sex with an unidentified woman. He has denied the charge and described it as a political conspiracy aimed at discrediting him.
Since taking office in 2009, Najib has welcomed more foreign ownership in Malaysian banks and liberalized some segments of the services sector. But he has twice delayed the implementation of a goods and services tax and baulked at further rolling back fuel subsidies, raising doubts about his commitment to reform.
In a March report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Malaysia ranked as the second-least popular market after Colombia among global emerging market fund managers and tied with India for least favorite among Asia-Pacific asset managers.
(Reporting by Razak Ahmad; editing by Liau Y-Sing and Nick Macfie)
BBC NEWS, LONDON, UK
LATEST 16 May 2011 Last updated at 07:10 GMT
Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim 'has sodomy case to answer'
|Mr Anwar says the the trial is a political conspiracy|
A Malaysian court has said sodomy charges against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim are "credible" and his trial must go on.
Mr Anwar is accused of sodomising a former male aide in a Kuala Lumpur hotel in 2008 - a charge he denies.
Judge Zabidin Mohamad Diah said the aide seemed truthful and reliable and that the prosecution had established a case that must be answered.
The charges, if proven, could send Mr Anwar to jail for 20 years.
"I find a prima facie case has been made out against the accused, therefore I call upon the accused to enter his defence," Judge Diah told the court.
He said he believed that Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, the 23-year-old man who accused Anwar of sodomising him, was a reliable witness.
"There is nothing improbable about his evidence. His evidence is reliable," the judge said.
He also found there was evidence that Mr Anwar and Mr Saiful were at the scene of the alleged crime at the time in question and that there was "opportunity for the offence to have taken place".
The judge had earlier reversed a ruling to allow key DNA evidence which had been barred for having been collected illegally when Mr Anwar was held in a police cell.
"It is clear that [Mr Anwar's] arrest was lawful and the detention was for a lawful purpose," the judge said.
The prosecution argues that the DNA from the items would link Mr Anwar to semen found on his accuser, Mr Azlan.
The decision to not acquit Mr Anwar comes as no surprise to his supporters, who insist that the sodomy charge is trumped up by his political enemies, says the BBC's Jennifer Pak in Kuala Lumpur.
The allegation surfaced just months after Mr Anwar led the opposition to win an unprecedented number of seats in the 2008 election, our correspondent says.
Government officials have denied all involvement.
Human Rights Watch has said the charges should be dropped and that the case is a "charade of justice".
Mr Anwar was imprisoned on separate sex and corruption charges in 1998, and freed on appeal in 2004.
Sodomy is illegal in Malaysia, even among consenting adults.