Anwar’s trial begins today

(NST) KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will go on trial at the High Court today for alleged sodomy of a former aide.

He is being charged with committing the offence on Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 24, a year ago.

The trial had been scheduled to begin last Wednesday and go on for a month. It was adjourned to today after several applications by the opposition leader.

Anwar had applied to the court to compel the prosecution to hand over all documents and samples related to the sodomy charge besides applying to strike out the charge against him.

These applications will be heard prior to the start of main proceedings.

It is anyone's guess whether the trial proper will actually begin today as the court must rule on the applications first.

It is expected that the decision on the applications will be followed by an appeal from either party.

The sexual allegations surfaced a year ago when Saiful lodged a police report at the Jalan Travers police station on June 28 last year.

After lodging the report, Saiful was elusive for a few days as he claimed that his life was in danger. He later sought police protection.

On July 9, Anwar lodged a complaint with the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department against Saiful, accusing him of committing qazaf (false accusations).

During investigations, Anwar had refused to provide a statement or blood samples to the police.

On Aug 7, Anwar arrived at the Sessions Court in the Jalan Duta Court Complex with a throng of supporters, and was charged with sodomising Saiful.

Unlike 1988 when he faced similar charges, this time he was placed on a personal bond of RM20,000 with no surety and his passport was not impounded.

Upon a request by the prosecution, his case was transferred to the High Court for trial but Anwar's defence team objected to the transfer and disputed the transfer certificate signed by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

Anwar said the then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had given an assurance that Gani would play no part in the trial after Anwar had accused Gani of being involved in concealing and fabricating evidence in 1998.

Anwar, 61, was subsequently charged at the High Court on Aug 7.

(Last Thursday, Anwar lost his appeal against the order to have his case transferred to the High Court.)

Saiful also made a surprise move and swore on the Quran on the sodomy charge at the Federal Territory Mosque a week after Anwar was charged at the High Court.

It is expected that about 30 witnesses will testify in the trial, including Kuala Lumpur Hospital doctors, investigating officer Deputy Superintendent of Police Jude Pereira and staff at the condominum where the offence allegedly took place.

The trial is expected to garner huge interest from the local and international media.