Channel NewsAsia

Malaysia's Anwar faces RM50m civil suit by sodomy accuser

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is facing a RM50 million (S$20 million) civil suit from his former aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan for allegedly sodomising the latter in 2008 and injuring his reputation.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim faces a hefty civil lawsuit by a former male aide who has accused the opposition leader of sodomising him, Anwar's lawyers said on Wednesday (Aug 13), calling the suit "politically motivated."

The suit, filed in June by Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, seeks damages of 50 million ringgit (S$20 million). In the writ of summons, Mohamad Saiful claimed that he had to bear physical pain and suffering since being sodomised by the defendant, and after Anwar claimed the police report lodged by Mohamad Saiful on the incident was false and a conspiracy against him.

Mohamad Saiful said sodomy is an offence under the Penal Code and Anwar should pay him damages for performing the act on him and for injuring his reputation after that.

The suit adds to mounting headaches for the opposition leader. Anwar, 67, is fighting to overturn a March criminal conviction on charges that he sodomised Saiful in 2008, a ruling that Anwar calls a smear by the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

Anwar is currently also embroiled in a bitter dispute with a member of his three-party opposition alliance that threatens to break apart the coalition, whose recent electoral successes have put severe pressure on UMNO's long-ruling government.

Anwar's lawyers said he must file a defence to Saiful's civil suit on September 3. "It is politically motivated to smear Anwar's name. It is a baseless suit which we will defend vigorously in court," said N Surendran, Anwar's counsel.

Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, even if consensual, and punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

Anwar's legal battles have gripped Malaysian politics for nearly two decades. A one-time rising UMNO star, Anwar was ousted in a bruising power struggle and convicted and jailed on an earlier, separate sodomy charge in 1998. He maintains UMNO is manipulating the courts to wage a long-term vendetta to blacken his name and halt the opposition's momentum.

Saiful's sodomy accusation came shortly after Anwar led the newly formed Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact) coalition to historic gains in 2008 elections. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has admitted meeting with Saiful shortly before the original charges were filed, but has denied involvement.

Anwar was acquitted in 2012 on the Saiful sodomy charge. But a court sensationally overturned that ruling in March - less than a year after general elections in which Pakatan made further inroads in parliament.

Sentenced to five years in jail, he is out on appeal. Surendran said Malaysia's highest court is expected on Thursday to fix a date for Anwar's appeal hearing.

Anwar's coalition is grappling with an open revolt by an opposition chief minister in a key state. Khalid Ibrahim, a member of Anwar's People's Justice Party, is refusing an order to vacate his post, and has received the backing of key figures in the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party, a conservative Muslim party and Pakatan member.

The continuing row has split the alliance, raising fears it could collapse.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia