Anwar supporters gather as opposition leader makes final appeal against sodomy conviction

Supporters of Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan hold placards against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim outside the court of appeals in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur on Oct 28,2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Supporters of Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan hold placards against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim outside the court of appeals in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur on Oct 28,2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Supporters of Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan hold placards and shout slogans against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim outside the court of appeals in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur on Oct 28,2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Supporters of Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan hold placards and shout slogans against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim outside the court of appeals in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur on Oct 28,2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A supporter of Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (centre) holds a placard outside the court of appeal in Putrajaya on Oct 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A supporter of Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (centre) holds a placard outside the court of appeal in Putrajaya on Oct 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Anwar supporters gather outside the Federal Court in Putrajaya on Oct 28, 2014 as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim makes final appeal against his sodomy conviction and 5-year jail term. -- ST PHOTO: SHANNON TEOH
Anwar supporters gather outside the Federal Court in Putrajaya on Oct 28, 2014 as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim makes final appeal against his sodomy conviction and 5-year jail term. -- ST PHOTO: SHANNON TEOH
Anwar supporters gather outside the Federal Court in Putrajaya on Oct 28, 2014 as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim makes final appeal against his sodomy conviction and 5-year jail term. -- ST PHOTO: SHANNON TEOH
Anwar supporters gather outside the Federal Court in Putrajaya on Oct 28, 2014 as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim makes final appeal against his sodomy conviction and 5-year jail term. -- ST PHOTO: SHANNON TEOH

PUTRAJAYA - Hundreds of supporters of Anwar Ibrahim have gathered outside Malaysia's Federal Court complex since early Tuesday morning in the hope that the opposition leader will successfully overturn a controversial sodomy conviction that would otherwise end his career.

Led by scores of opposition lawmakers, their chants of "Reformasi" (reformation) and "Rakyat Hakim Negara" (The People are the Nation's Judge) rang out in Malaysia's administrative capital early on Tuesday.

Police have set up a perimeter of about 50 metres around the court building where Anwar's defence team sought to punch holes in the testimony of Saiful Bukhari Azlan, a former aide who accused the former deputy prime minister of sodomising him in 2008.

"I am confident of winning the case if there is an independent judiciary," Anwar said when he walked out to greet his supporters prior to the start of the trial.

His defence is led by Gopal Sri Ram, a former Federal Court judge who is a surprise addition.

Mr Sri Ram is arguing that Mr Saiful's testimony is inconsistent and incredible, noting among other issues that the 33-year-old claimed to have purchased lubricant knowing he would later be forcefully sodomised by his then-employer.

Mr Sri Ram said the lubricant in question was never presented as evidence in the case and was only raised in Mr Saiful's testimony.

The hearing was originally scheduled to wrap up on Wednesday but has now been extended till Thursday, with the prosecution expected to only begin submitting on Wednesday.

Lead prosecutor Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said on Wednesday that the prosecution team were confident they would win the case after listening to Anwar's submission.

"It is a submission that we expect. We feel we got all the answers," he said. 

The five-man bench could decide whether to send Anwar to prison, or to uphold the guilty verdict but defer sentencing to a later date.

There is also a possibility that the Federal Court may order a retrial as Anwar's defence seems to raise questions about the veracity of the prosecution's evidence without so far providing a solid alibi.

Anwar, 67, appeared calm and jovial despite the prospect of a second stint in jail since his sacking from government in 1998.

The High Court had in 2012 acquitted Anwar  but the Court of Appeal ruled on March 7 this year that the trial judge had erred when rejecting the DNA evidence produced in the case.

This is Anwar's second sodomy trial - in August, 2000, he and his adopted brother Sukma Dermawan were found guilty of sodomising Azizan Abu Bakar between January and March 1993. Azizan was at the time the driver for Anwar's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. But in September 2004, Anwar won his final appeal against the conviction in a majority 2-1 ruling.

shannont@sph.com.sg