Anwar cancels Sydney trip due to clashing court date over Sodomy II case

(MM) – Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has cancelled a visit to Sydney next week due to a court hearing at the Federal Court over his bid to disqualify Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as the lead prosecutor in his Sodomy II appeal case.

The visit would have included appearances at two forums and a debate on Islam, the Sydney Morning Herald website said today.

PKR vice-president Chua Tian Chang, popularly known as Tian Chua, told Fairfaz Media that Anwar’s lawyers tried to have the court appearance changed to another date but claimed the judges insisted to go ahead on November 7, the day he was scheduled to be in Sydney.

“The cancellation of the trip will definitely remind the international community that the prosecution of Anwar in fact, the entire opposition, is not over,” he said.

Chua later told The Malay Mail Online that despite Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s promises of a more open democracy, the clashing of Anwar’s court date with his visit showed that “Najib can be as autocratic as the old Mahathir”, referring to former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

“So the opposition, especially Anwar, cannot expect to enjoy a peace of mind or a level playing field in the political competition,” said Chua.

There had been reports alleging that a “student adviser” purporting to represent Education Australia Malaysia in Sydney had sent an email warning students on scholarship from Malaysia’s Public Service Department (PSD) against attending the Anwar event in Adelaide on October 20.

Students however ignored the warning and thronged the University of Adelaide for a public interview session with public intellectual Waleed Aly.  Anwar was the headline event on the final day of the four-day festival.

Meanwhile, November 7 will be Anwar’s final attempt to disqualify top Umno lawyer Muhammad Shafee from leading the prosecution team to overturn the opposition leader’s acquittal for sodomy.

On September 17, a three-men bench led by Datuk Ramly Ali only gave oral grounds as to why it was dismissing Anwar’s application to disquality Shafee as ad-hoc deputy public prosecutor.

According to The Malaysian Insider, Anwar’s lawyer Karpal Singh said he was notified of the appeal date two weeks ago and is now rushing to file the petition of appeal.

On January 9 last year, judge Datuk Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah acquitted Anwar, 66, for sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, at a Desa Damansara condominium unit in Bukit Damansara on June 26, 2008.

The verdict ended a trial that lasted over two years, with 27 prosecution and seven defence witnesses called.

Anwar served six years in prison for the first sodomy trial after being convicted in 1998. He was given a nine-year sentence but the verdict was later overturned in 2004.

Today, Chua said Anwar has to face “the reality that they (government) will continue to drag this case to bring him down.”

“That is something quite unfortunate that we have to face”.