KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 (Reuters) - Malaysia's main opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim on Wednesday asked the Islamic court to investigate a former aide, who accused him of sodomy, for alleged slander.
His decision to bring the case to a sharia court could step up pressure on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration and the 23-year-old aide, who is already facing a civil suit by Anwar.
Anwar says the allegation was part of a high-level political conspiracy to keep him from entering parliament and to halt his drive to lead the opposition to power for the first time in Malaysian history.
'I have decided to make this report to the Islamic court under the provision of malicious attack on my character, fabrication and lies,' he said after filing the complaint at a sharia office.
Anwar, who is being investigated by the police over the sodomy allegation, is making his case in a shariah court because the burden of proof in Islam is much heavier, his lawyer Kamar Ainiah Kamaruzaman said.
Under Islamic laws, an accuser in fornication cases has to produce four witnesses regarding the sexual act to back his or her claim, as prescribed by the Koran.
Anyone found guilty faces three years in jail or a 5,000 ringgit ($1,534) fine or both.
'In this case, it is up to him to prove,' Anwar's lawyer Kamar Ainiah told reporters. 'Otherwise, his testimony cannot be accepted as credible.'
Police are investigating Anwar, a former deputy premier, for sodomising Saiful Bukhari Azlan, the same charge that landed him in jail for six years before the Federal Court overturned that conviction in 2004.
Saiful, who has been under police protection since he made the allegation on June 28, made his first comment on his case in an e-mail to a TV station on Monday.
'The truth will prevail. Falsehood will surely be exposed,' the Star newspaper, quoting the email, said on Tuesday.
He also dared Anwar to swear in front of ulamas (Muslim clerics) over the allegation. 'Just inform me of the time and date,' he wrote.
Police said at the weekend they have questioned 18 people in relation to the case but have not summoned Anwar for questioning.
Sodomy is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison in mainly Muslim Malaysia. ($1=3.260 Malaysian Ringgit) (Reporting by Jalil Hamid; Editing by Bill Tarrant)
Some readers may find the following article by Irfan Yusuf , an Australian industrial and employment lawyer and a freelance writer useful to understand the situation better:
Hudud Punishments: Anwar Ibrahim is proof that Tariq Ramadan has a point
Sharia may be a divinely-inspired legal system. But in the hands of the wrong people, it’s criminal punishments can become part of the devil’s handiwork.
By Irfan Yusuf
April 1, 2005
Two prominent Muslims recently graced Australian shores.
Tariq Ramadan delivered lectures and moderated workshops in Sydney and Melbourne. He brought a message of Muslims needing to engage in and with the societies in which they live. He also gave us a taste of the inner aspects of faith, the tasawwuf (often misnamed as ’sufism’), that his grandfather (the late Imam Hasan al-Banna) so thoroughly reflected.
Months later, Anwar Ibrahim visited Australia and spoke to packed audiences in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. These included 2 public lectures specifically targeted at Muslim communities.Anwar delivered a similar message to his Muslim audience � that we need to engage with non-Muslims, that we need to stop pretending we are not part of the communities we live in and benefit from.Recently Dr. Ramadan has made the headlines with his claim that there should be a moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty (collectively known as hudud) in the Islamic world. His comments have been condemned by Muslim writers and scholars, including those claiming to follow the legacy of Dr. Ramadan’s grandfather.I am not qualified to speak on the legal validity of Dr. Ramadan’s proposal. I do not hold any formal qualifications in sharia law, nor am I a graduate of an Islamic university. I have rarely set foot in any madressa (except to learn how to read the Qur’an in Arabic). I have no ijazaijaza as part of a chain (or sanad) of ijaza going back to the Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings of God be upon him).But I do know something about the administration of criminal justice. I also know a little about politics and public relations. And I would humbly submit that unless our scholars handle themselves properly, we might be headed for another public relations disaster.Sharia is not just about criminal justice, stoning adulterers or chopping hands and heads off. Sharia is a complex and sophisticated legal tradition encompassing a broad range of opinions from things as fundamental as how rules are derived to things more mundane as where to place your hands when praying the salaat or nemaz. Hudud punishments are a small portion of the corpus of sharia.But the way some of our scholars are reacting, one would think that perhaps all those News Limited columnists are right and that sharia is little more than nasty punishments.Criminal justice does not just exist in statute books or scholarly dissertations. Between crime and punishment is a whole series of steps. The person must be apprehended and charged. A decision needs to be made on bail. Then there are issues relating to court evidence and procedure. Finally, upon conviction, there must be sentencing guidelines for the judge to follow. Not every theft leads to an automatic amputation.All this requires specially trained law enforcement agencies. In the case of Anwar, the law enforcement agencies were specially trained to deliver him a black eye and serious injuries that will affect him for life. He was lucky. Had he been Mamdouh Habib (the Australian citizen recently released from detention at Guanatanamo Bay), he may have been shipped to Egypt where the law enforcement would have been less gentle.And imagine if hudud punishments were applied to Anwar after being wrongly convicted of sodomy. We would not have been listening to him some weeks back. All that we could have seen of him would have been a gravestone with his name engraved onto it.Also required are qualified and independent judges. I have relatives in Pakistan who are lawyers. They tell me how wonderfully independent judges there are � to the highest bidder. The judge initially hearing Anwar’s case was also totally independent in doing the bidding of the government.Before pro-Ikhwan writers attack Dr. Ramadan over his proposal, they should provide one example of a Muslim country where the rule of law is supreme, where judges are qualified to understand and justly enforce hudud and where police and other law enforcement agencies are relatively corruption-free. Sharia may be (and I believe is) a divinely-inspired legal system. But in the hands of the wrong people, it’s criminal punishments can become part of the devil’s handiwork.The late Syed Maududi, a chief proponent of the introduction of sharia into Pakistani law, was also strongly opposed to the introduction of hudud until the moral, social and educational conditions were right. No point chopping hands for theft when the entire economy is based on a reverse Robin Hood system � stealing from the poor majority to give to the rich minority.And what a nightmare it would be if the proponents of sharia turn out to be the ones behind the creation of a system in which sharia lost all credibility in the eyes of the people it was meant to guide and save. Imagine an international Muslim community fillied with millions of Amina Lawals.Caliph Umar had the right idea. He suspended the punishment for theft during times of severe poverty arising from a famine. When people are forced to steal just to survive, amputating their limbs hardly seems just.When Muslim scholars take absurd positions and oppose anything that resembles compromising (a portion of) sharia, they undermine their own credibility. For many, it also involves them speaking and judging in areas beyond their expertise. The trial judge who sentenced Amina Lawal on the basis of a minority (and largely discredited) position within the Maliki school of law was a classic example of this.These scholars also make it hard for other scholars, writers, professionals, business people and other ordinary Muslims who are busy trying to engage with their fellow humans. It is hard to tell someone that your intentions are peaceful when your religious scholars are intent on imposing criminal sanctions seemingly based on mindless violence. So much being able to fruitfully engage with non-Muslims!Of course, our scholars could always just state the truth. They could acknowledge that there are serious obstacles to be overcome before any aspect of sharia is implemented on a national level in any Muslim country. They could also acknowledge that sharia is not just concerned with criminal justice but also with economic, political, social, educational, matrimonial and every other form of justice. Sharia is as much about curbing anti-competitive behaviour in the market or ensuring mediation becomes a primary means of settling commercial disputes as it is about punishing criminals.Law does not exist in a social vacuum. Let’s get our Muslim societies in order before we start drastically increasing the severity of our criminal punishments. Let’s ensure we have in each Muslim country an independent judiciary, a corruption-free police force, court officials who do not take bribes, politicians who feel the full force of the law and social conditions which mitigate against theft, murder and every other crime the subject of hudud.Tariq Ramadan has a point. And Anwar Ibrahim is living proof that no Muslim country is ready for hudud. Let the Muslim country bound by the rule of law cast the first stone.
Irfan Yusuf, an Australian industrial and employment lawyer, is a freelance writer whose interests include law, gender issues, international relations, spirituality and conservative politics. His writings can be seen online at Planet Irf and Madhab Irfy.
Mr. Ibrahim hs generated a lot of sympathy in India. The following is an editorial in the Daily Pioneer, New Delhi.
The Pioneer Edit Desk
Anwar Ibrahim is being hounded again
History repeats itself in Malaysia. Once again Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim finds himself in trouble. Late June an aide of his accused Mr Ibrahim of sexual assault. Though he has denied the charge, it is one, if proved, that could lead to his imprisonment for up to 20 years. It is not the first time that Mr Ibrahim has been so accused. It was 10 years ago, when Mr Ibrahim was Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister and the rising star of Malaysian politics, when a similar allegation was levelled against him. He was arrested and spent six years in prison even though the charge was to be thrown out by the courts in 2004. He claimed then, as he is claiming now, that the charges are political in nature, in retribution for his efforts to mobilise the fractious Opposition into a political force. Then, as now, he had been within sight of the top post of Prime Minister. Then, as a leader within the United Malays National Organisation, which had been the dominant party in the ruling National Front coalition, he had mounted a challenge against the long rule of Mr Mahathir Mohamad. This time around he has again been an embarrassment to the National Front by forging an opposition unity that includes such unlikely partners as Muslim Malays and the Chinese. Of late he had courted defectors from the ruling National Front in an attempt to form a new Government by September. Mr Ibrahim has also been a harsh critic of Government policies, including the controversial once of affirmative action which he has promised to review if voted to power. It is not unlikely that by proving to be a thorn in the flesh of the present Government he may have drawn its ire. In addition to the political aspects, Mr Ibrahim has further claimed that these allegations have been made in retaliation to his having collected evidence implicating the Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General of misconduct.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has come increasingly under pressure in the last few weeks as Malaysians have taken to the streets to protest against cuts in fuel subsidies. There have been dissensions within the ruling alliance that have led to calls for a vote of no confidence against him. No doubt, Malaysia is in some amount of political turmoil. If the charges against Mr Ibrahim prove to be false and are part of a political conspiracy, then it is deeply unfortunate for Malaysian democracy. It amounts to the political victimisation of Opposition leaders. Mr Ibrahim has filed a defamation suit and has expressed confidence that Malaysians would not prove to be gullible. It, however, remains to be seen what turn Malaysian politics takes now, for the charges have the potential of derailing Mr Ibrahim's career once again.