Malaysia's Anwar says he resisted advice to go into exile to avoid jail term

In this picture taken on April 9, 2014 Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during an interview at his party office in Kuala Lumpur. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
In this picture taken on April 9, 2014 Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during an interview at his party office in Kuala Lumpur. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (The Nation/Asia News Network) - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said yesterday he has resisted advice to go into exile to avoid a jail term stemming from sodomy charges against him.

Anwar said the advice that he stay behind in London after a recent conference there came from several prominent political figures. They included former United States vice-president Al Gore and the former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, who were concerned that he would not get a fair trial.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and now leader of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat, is facing a five-year jail term after the Court of Appeal overturned his acquittal on sodomy charges.

He is appealing the sentence, but admitted his prospects were bleak because the Malaysian judiciary is under political control.

Anwar said foreign leaders he met in London were concerned that he would be sent back to jail.

"All of them advised me to stay back in London because there is no point coming back to jail," he said. "But without hesitation I decided to come home because this is my country."

Anwar said many of his supporters in Malaysia would accept it if he chose to stay overseas "because they would be disheartened to see me endure a prison sentence again".

Criticising the Najib government for what he described as widespread corruption and cronyism, Anwar said he would continue to wage the fight for reform from inside the country despite the threat of another prison term.

"I have to overcome fears," said the firebrand politician who led the opposition coalition to win the popular vote in last year's general elections to deny the ruling Umno-led coalition a two-thirds majority.

While insisting that he was not upset by the decision of US President Barack Obama not to meet him during his visit to Kuala Lumpur, Anwar said he was disappointed that Obama did not use the trip to show that the US was consistent with its policy of supporting democratic values.

Anwar said while the US was seen as supporting dictatorial and authoritarian regimes, it could not be silent when people fighting for democratic reforms were suppressed.

"Here they can't be muted when the Umno regime uses courts to deny my rights and (the rights of) those other political leaders," he said.