Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim delivered a speech to supporters on the grounds of his alma mater, the Universiti Malaya, late last night, despite a heavy downpour and attempts by the university to block.
Anwar, 67, used a megaphone to address the crowd from the back of a pick-up truck around 10 pm, before he heads to court today to make a final appeal against his conviction on sodomy charges earlier this year, The Star Online reported.
The event, called 40 years: From UM to Prison, was organised by the elected student body, the UM Undergraduates Association (PMUM).
The UM administration had declared the event illegal, but Anwar vowed to attend, telling the university's management to "grow an intellectual spine", according to The Malaysian Insider.
PMUM president Fahmi Zainol, a government-scholarship student, had also dared the university to expel him and said he would proceed with tonight's event, the Insider said. By 7pm, the university's two main gates had been locked and manned by security guards. Students gathered outside the gate did not move despite the downpour.
Guards initially tried to turn back a vehicle with the logo of Anwar's Pakatan Rakyat logo but, as the crowd swelled and attempted to rock the UM gates open, eventually relented and he spoke at the site originally planned on the campus grounds.
Anwar expects to be imprisoned, despite today's final appeal against the sodomy conviction. At a press briefing yesterday, he said he had rejected offers of asylum from the likes of Britain and Turkey, adding that there is a "need to ensure this country transforms itself as a vibrant democracy".
The Court of Appeal in March found Anwar guilty of sodomising Mr Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 27, in 2008 and sentenced him to five years in jail, overturning a 2012 acquittal by the High Court. He has repeatedly denied the charge, saying it was politically motivated. Convicted of an earlier sodomy charge in 1998 and sentenced to nine years in jail, he was released in 2004 after serving six years, when the conviction was overturned.
Analysts note that just the upholding of the five-year jail term could spell the end of Anwar's political career, given the five-year ban from elections after such a conviction. He will also have to relinquish his parliamentary seat