March 8, 2014, Saturday

Court of Appeal overturns High Court’s acquittal of Anwar, sentences him to five years’ jail
PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was yesterday sentenced to five years’ jail after the Court of Appeal overturned his previous sodomy acquittal, ruling that the trial judge erred in rejecting DNA evidence adduced.

The three-men bench led by Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi, Datuk Aziah Ali and Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh unanimously decided that the High Court failed to “critically evaluate” the evidence submitted by government chemist Dr Seah Lay Hong.

The bench delivered their decision in 90 minutes after hearing submissions from both parties.

Balia said that High Court judge Datuk Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah had wrongly concluded that investigating officer Jude Blacious Pereira may have compromised DNA samples submitted as evidence when he opened a sealed bag in which they were kept.

“We are of the view that had the learned judge properly and correctly appreciated that the so-called tampering was solely to P27 (the bag containing the test tubes holding the samples), he would not have come to the conclusion that by cutting open P27, the confidence and integrity of the samples was gone and the samples had been compromised before they reached PW5 (DrSeah) for analysis,” Balia said.

Balia also dismissed the contention by the defence that the DNA samples had suffered degradation after being retrieved from the rectum of Anwar’s accuser, given the “impeccable credentials” of the government chemists.

“We unanimously allow this appeal and set aside the decision of the High Court. The respondent is hereby found guilty and convicted of the offence charged,” read Balia.

Anwar’s defence team then sought for an adjournment until next week to allow them to prepare for mitigation.

But Balia yesterday insisted that Karpal Singh, who is leading Anwar’s defence, must submit mitigating circumstances in an hour’s time.

This led Anwar to react angrily by standing up and shouting out at the decision.

“Just do it now!” he exclaimed loudly, in apparent reference to the sentencing.

This prompted his tearful wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, along with daughter NurulIzzah Anwar to rush to his side in an attempt to calm the opposition leader.

Protests could also be heard from the gallery when Balia said that mitigation must be completed by yesterday.

“Why are you trying to rush?” an unidentified speaker asked loudly as a tense air descended over the courtroom.

“It’s [happening] all over again, after 15 years. They want to put me in the lockup. That’s why they want to go ahead with the mitigation,” Anwar said yesterday, referring to his first sodomy conviction in 1999.

The opposition leader has repeatedly claimed that the charge is politically motivated.

On Jan 9, 2012, Anwar was acquitted of allegedly sodomising at the DesaDamansara condominium on June 26, 2008.

Zabidin had then freed Anwar on grounds that he could not rule out possible tampering of the DNA samples in the case.

The opposition leader was charged under Section 377B of the Penal Code and can be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years’ jail and whipping upon conviction.

The trial began 18 months after Anwar was charged in court in August 2008.

The former deputy prime minister and finance minister was charged with sodomy and corruption in 1998 after he was sacked from the cabinet.

He was convicted and jailed for both offences but the sodomy charge was overturned.

Anwar was freed in September 2004 after spending six years in jail and later resurrected his political career by winning back his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat in a by-election in 2008.

Balia however granted Anwar’s application for a stay of the sentence pending appeal with bail of RM10,000.

Karpal speaking to reporters later, said that with this ruling, Anwar could not file his nomination papers for the Kajang state seat by-election this Tuesday. — Malaymail