Anwar Ibrahim freed, vows to win elections
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim celeberates the court decision with his daugther Nurul Izzah (L) outside the court in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. AFP photoMalaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was acquitted Jan 9 in a stunning climax to a two-year sodomy trial and quickly set his sights on ousting the long-ruling coalition in upcoming polls.
The unexpected decision set off pandemonium at the Kuala Lumpur High Court where Anwar -- a former deputy premier who was sacked in 1998 and jailed on earlier sodomy charges -- was mobbed by jubilant family and friends.
“Thank God, justice has been served,” Anwar told reporters in the courtroom after being cleared of sexual misconduct with a young male aide, charges he said were a conspiracy to cripple his resurgent opposition alliance. An elated Anwar later told AFP in an interview that he was now clear to focus on the prize he has sought since his shock ouster from the ruling party in 1998: consigning the governing Barisan Nasional coalition to history. “Now that I am vindicated and freed, naturally I will work with my friends and... the coalition of opposition parties to ensure we can wrest control of Putrajaya (Malaysia’s administrative capital),” he said. “Our only concern now is to ensure that the elections are held free and fair,” Anwar said as he sipped milk tea in a festive atmosphere at his Kuala Lumpur home. “Given free and fair elections, I am confident, God willing, we will win.” Thousands of supporters who had massed at the court under heavy security, many in Muslim skullcaps or Anwar masks, erupted into cheers and celebrated in the streets, shouting the opposition’s battle cry of “Reformasi!” (reform).
In a brief statement, Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah said controversial DNA evidence submitted by the prosecution in the case was unreliable. The ruling came as a surprise to many, including Anwar, who had said Prime Minister Najib Razak had fixed the verdict to remove him as a political threat and shore up the coalition’s five-decade grip on power. In November, visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton renewed U.S. calls for the charges against Anwar to be handled “fairly and transparently.” Meanwhile, Five people were injured in three small explosions outside the court where opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was cleared on the case, police said. The small but loud blasts occurred within minutes of each other after Anwar left the courthouse in central Kuala Lumpur in triumph following his acquittal in a case he has called a government fabrication to cripple the opposition. Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohmad Salleh said five people sustained “light injuries” but were taken to hospital for observation.
Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.