Anwar confident despite sodomy verdict delay

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to the media his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy concluded at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya on Nov 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to the media his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy concluded at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya on Nov 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PUTRAJAYA (AFP) - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Friday he was confident the country's top court would overturn a sodomy conviction that could see him jailed, as judges delayed giving a verdict.

The Federal Court's five-judge panel, hearing Anwar's appeal, was originally expected to issue a ruling last week, but after extending proceedings to eight days, they said they needed more time to consider the submissions.

Anwar, who was found guilty by a lower court earlier this year, has long dismissed the charges that he had sex with a young male former aide as engineered by the country's long-ruling regime to thwart accelerating electoral gains by the opposition.

"I have no worries... They (my lawyers) have destroyed the case of the prosecution," Anwar, 67, told reporters outside the courtroom.

"The authorities should stop with oppression (and) harassment, using obsolete and draconian laws."

If the highest court upholds the "guilty" verdict and the five-year prison sentence handed to Anwar in March, the politician will lose his parliament seat - and the opposition, its top leader.

Government prosecutor Shafee Abdullah said if the court upheld the conviction, he would ask for a lengthier jail sentence.

"This is not a politically motivated case... We're not a banana republic whereby the courts are controlled by the government," he told reporters.

"Anwar has been given a fair trial throughout... Why should we look for conspiracy when there is no conspiracy?"

A lower court initially acquitted Anwar in 2012 of the charges - which emerged shortly after the once hapless opposition surged to key gains in 2008 - but this was overturned in March.

Sodomy is illegal in the Muslim-majority country.

Hundreds of people have gathered daily outside the court to support Anwar.

Earlier, some 100 supporters followed Anwar from a nearby mosque, where he observed Friday prayers, to the court, shouting the opposition's rallying cry of "Reformasi" or "Reform".

International rights groups say the case represents a major test for the country's judiciary, long seen by critics as prone to manipulation by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), which has ruled as part of a coalition since 1957 independence.

The United States also has said Anwar's conviction raised doubts about the rule of law.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister with Umno, already spent six years in prison on separate sodomy and corruption charges following a fall-out with the ruling party.

He was freed in 2004 after the sodomy conviction was overturned and has since led an opposition alliance of three disparate parties to unprecedented electoral gains.

The opposition won the majority of votes in elections last year with pledges to end corruption, crony capitalism and racial discrimination.

But the regime retained parliament thanks to gerrymandering.

Since then, dozens of opposition politicians, activists and other government critics have been targeted with sedition and other charges.