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Anwar fails in bid to disqualify lead prosecutor in sodomy appeal case

As Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim gears up for the keenly-watched Kajang by-election, his second sodomy appeal case might cost him an election victory.

KUALA LUMPUR: As Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim gears up for the keenly-watched Kajang by-election, his second sodomy appeal case might cost him an election victory.

Mr Anwar's lawyers have failed in their bid to disqualify prominent lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as lead prosecutor in the case.

Led by renowned criminal lawyer Tommy Thomas, the appellant argued that Mr Muhammad Shafee's appointment is not valid because of a clear conflict of interest.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhammad Shafee is perceived to have close ties with the ruling UMNO party.

However, the federal court’s five-member panel unanimously dismissed the application as there is no proof of conflict of interest.

The prosecution look set to push ahead with the appeal hearing this week, and are confident they will be able to reverse Mr Anwar's acquittal, which may see the opposition leader being put back behind bars.

Mr Muhammad Shafee, described by one of the panel judges as a mercenary in the legal world, rubbished claims that he only acts for the ruling Barisan Nasional government because of his close ties with the ruling party UMNO.

Although he has defended former prime ministers including Dr Mahathir Mohamad as well as Malaysia’s current Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, he said he has also acted in several occasions for the opposition.

But Mr Muhammad Shafee denied there is any conflict of interest and brushed off rumours that he harbours strong animosity towards Mr Anwar.

“I have never acted for Anwar, (thus, it is not the case) where I know many things about Anwar and therefore I can use those facts in this case. In fact, he was a close friend of mine,” he said.

Rumoured to be the next attorney-general, Mr Muhammad Shafee said he is confident of overturning Mr Anwar's acquittal based on DNA samples admitted during the trial.

Mr Anwar was acquitted of sodomising his former male aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan in January 2012, mainly because the court found that the key samples were tampered with.

But the lead prosecutor is determined to prove otherwise.

“It was so clear that (the DNA samples) weren’t tampered with. So when I was asked to do the appeal, I already knew that the appeal has got reasonably good ground to succeed,” said Mr Muhammad Shafee.

While the case may jeopardise Mr Anwar's bid to win the by-election and possibly land him the top job in Selangor, the seasoned politician is unfazed.

"The opposition has gone through this for a long time -- for the last 15 years, we've endured this. They have used the courts in the past, and we hope they will not in the future,” said Mr Anwar.

The appeal hearing kicks off on Wednesday when Mr Anwar's lawyers are seeking to recall the prosecution's key witness Jude Pereira, who was the chief investigating officer, in a bid to discredit him.

The case has been both convoluted and bizarre, to say the least.

Mr Anwar’s former male aide Saiful, who accused the opposition leader of sodomising him, has since gotten married.

Mr Saiful’s father has also joined Mr Anwar's opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). 

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