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Malaysian prosecutors appeal opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's acquittal on sodomy charge
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) ' Malaysian prosecutors Friday filed an appeal to challenge the acquittal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges earlier this month, prolonging a court battle that cast a shadow over his political future.
After a two-year trial that had polarized the country, Anwar was acquitted on Jan. 9 after the High Court ruled that the prosecution's DNA evidence was not enough to convict him of sodomizing a male former aide in 2008.
Solicitor General Idrus Harun said the attorney-general's chambers decided to challenge the decision in the Appeals Court but declined to give further details.
Defense lawyer Sankara Nair slammed the move as "most regrettable and atrocious," because the High Court judge had clearly said in his verdict that crucial DNA evidence had been tampered with.
"The substratum of the prosecution's case is fatally demolished, rendering any appeal, no matter how many times, a desperate act in futility. It appears to be a continuing case of political persecution of Anwar, not prosecution," he said.
The prosecution's appeal has come as a surprise, just as Anwar's acquittal had.
"It's back to square one. It is a setback to Anwar because he will have to spend time in the appeal process and won't be able to focus fully on forthcoming elections," said James Chin, a political science lecturer at Monash University in Malaysia.
Chin said it also reflected negatively on Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has earlier claimed he does not interfere with the judiciary and that his promises of ensuring civil liberties are serious. National elections are not due till 2013 but Najib is widely expected to call early polls this year.
Anwar, 64, has long maintained the charges were trumped up by Najib's long-ruling coalition to prevent his opposition alliance from coming to power.
Anwar previously was imprisoned for six years after being ousted as deputy prime minister in 1998 on charges of sodomizing his former family driver and abusing his power. Sodomy, even consensual, is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, but the law against it is seldom enforced.
Anwar was freed in 2004 after Malaysia's top court quashed the sodomy conviction. He then led a three-party alliance to unprecedented gains in 2008 elections, but his future was thrown into jeopardy months later when Saiful Bukhari Azlan, a 26-year-old former aide, accused Anwar of forcing him to have sex in an apartment.
Saiful wrote on his blog Friday that he was thankful for the appeal and that he would continue to pray and be patient for justice.