Malaysia Court Rules Case Against Anwar Ibrahim to Go Ahead

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Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will be on trial in June after a judge rules the sodomy case against him can go ahead. Anwar was convicted and jailed on a similar charge in 1998, but that conviction was overturned in 2004.

On Monday, a Malaysian judge ordered a sodomy trial involving opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to proceed, setting the stage for a lengthy trial that could boost Prime Minister Najib Razak's government ahead of a possible snap election this year.

The judge asked Anwar to enter his defence on sodomy allegations.

Sodomy carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.

[Anwar Ibrahim, Defendant]:
"The fact that defense can be called I think... is to be expected. Under the system you can't go to charge Anwar and let him squat free at the first opportunity. But, to come with such a judgment, this is appalling."

Several hundred of Anwar's supporters were there shouting "Reformasi" - the reform movement set up by Anwar after he was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998.

Analysts say Monday's court ruling increased the chances of a general election this year, although one isn't due until 2013.

They expect Najib to grab the chance to call for snap polls while the opposition's attention is diverted by the trial.

Anwar is determined the trial would not be a distraction.

[Anwar Ibrahim, Defendant]:
"Virtually anybody who monitors the local media is like an obsession or phobia, you know not one day passes without portraying Anwar as the enemy of the people, a traitor, the agent of the Christians or Chinese or the Jews, and sexual pervert and the video - everything possible - but should it derail or distract us? My answer is no."

Anwar's People Justice party is regarded as the link that holds together a widely disparate three-party opposition coalition.