Anwar’s sodomy trial kicks off

Written by Chua Sue-Ann, The Edge  

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial kicked off today despite the discharge of Anwar's lead counsel, with other counsels taking over submissions on preliminary applications.

The High Court here rejected Anwar's application for the trial's postponement today to allow him to appoint a new lead counsel, after Sulaiman Abdullah discharged himself citing health conditions.

The former deputy prime minister's sodomy trial had been postponed twice after Sulaiman was hospitalised last week.

In denying the request, Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah said members of Anwar's eight-member legal team were "equally competent" to lead and that he was "confident that there would be no injustice" if other counsels took over.

Anwar's counsel R Sivarasa had argued that the court must grant a "reasonable adjournment" and reminded the court that the opposition leader's case must not be seen to be "treated differently".

"What is the prejudice of any party for a few weeks' delay? There is no compelling reason for any undue haste for the matter to proceed," said Sivarasa, who is also member of parliament for Subang.

Raising objection, Solicitor-General II Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abidin said the case must proceed as it was of public interest.

"We must allow arguments to be made and recorded in court and not outside," Yusof said, adding that there had been various allegations made on blogs in relation to the high profile case.

After the judge's decision to proceed was made, Anwar's counsels Edmund Bon and Amer Hamzah Arshad then made their submissions on Anwar's application for the court to compel the prosecution to release documents and evidence, which they said were necessary for Anwar to "fully prepare his defence".

Anwar has pleaded not guilty to sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan on June 28 last year at the Desa Damansara condominium in Bukit Damansara.

Bon said Anwar's application under Section 51 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), amongst two other provisions, placed duty on the prosecution to release the documents before trial commenced.

He added said the court had wide powers to compel the prosecution to release the evidence.

Bon said the Attorney-General's Chambers had enacted guidelines for prosecutors after Section 51 of the CPC was amended in 2006.

It stipulated that all documents must be tendered at least three weeks before trial began, Bon said, arguing that the prosecution must adhere to the directive.

Bon maintained that Anwar's legal team were not on a "fishing expedition for evidence", noting that they had written many letters and reminders to the prosecutor in their bid to obtain evidence.

Among the items sought by Anwar were CCTV recordings between June 25 and June 28, 2008 from three cameras at Desa Damansara condominium where the alleged sodomy took place as well as DNA samples.

Anwar wanted to appoint his own expert to examine the authenticity of the DNA samples and CCTV recordings, Bon said.

Anwar's legal team had also issued an alibi notice to the prosecution, arguing that Anwar was not present where the sodomy was alleged to have taken place, Bon said.

Bon also sought a copy of the prosecution's witness list because several of the witnesses lined up were included in Anwar's alibi notice.

He submitted that Anwar would also rely on two medical reports — by Hospital Pusrawi and Hospital Kuala Lumpur — that found no evidence of "penetration".

"If the prosecution (will not hand over the evidence), then this court must issue a prohibitory order that documents not given to us three weeks before cannot be produced in court."

Amer Hamzah Arshad then sought the prosecution to release expert notes on the chemist report, which the defence had already obtained, in order to examine the methodologies employed in the investigation.

The counsel said this was important because the prosecution had indicated at the outset that they would rely on DNA and forensic evidence.

Solicitor-General II Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abidin submitted that Section 51 of the CPC did not give the court a role in ordering the production and inspection of evidence, arguing that it was for the public prosecutor to determine what was necessary.

However, he said, the provision could be included in potential submissions on whether withholding of any evidence had led to a denial of fair trial.

"They haven't even seen the evidence and yet they say we are tampering," Mohd Yusof said.

He defended the prosecution, submitting that it had tendered more than what was required by Section 51.

He also said the prosecution had released the Hospital Kuala Lumpur medical report although it was not required to, adding that the report was "at best neutral".

He also told the court that the prosecution did not have Hospital Pusrawi's medical report on Saiful. Tomorrow, Anwar's lawyers would reply to Mohd Yusof's submissions before the court would made a ruling on Anwar's application.

The court will also hear Anwar's application to strike out the sodomy charge, which the opposition leader claims is part of a "political conspiracy".