Launching a new legal effort to win back his freedom, jailed de facto Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that the government falsified evidence that led to his five-year sentence on a sodomy charge.
The lawsuit alleges that Anwar’s conviction was based on perjured testimony by his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, the prosecution’s main witness, whom the founder of the opposition People’s Justice Party PKR) was accused of sodomizing.
Anwar’s attorneys filed the suit on his behalf at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, naming the Malaysian government as the defendant.
“Saiful had testified perjured evidence under oath known by the defendant as false,” Anwar’s lawsuit stated. “The defendant fabricated false evidence in the form of an alleged DNA sample and used it to support the perjured evidence of Saiful.”
In December 2016, Anwar, 69, lost his final appeal to be freed from prison after the Federal Court, the country’s highest court, rejected his application to review his conviction by the lower Court of Appeal.
The High Court acquitted Anwar in 2012 but the Court of Appeal reversed that decision and sentenced him in 2014 to five years in prison.
In January, the Court of Appeal allowed Anwar to pursue a legal challenge to a decision by the Pardons Board that went against him in March 2015.
Unless Anwar is pardoned, he cannot challenge Prime Minister Najib Razak in a general election expected to take place in mid-2018 because Malaysian law disqualifies a convict from running for political office.
According to the new lawsuit filed by Anwar, the Malaysian government fraudulently and intentionally brought forward the aide as the main prosecution witness although it had proof that the aide was unreliable.
Because of Saiful’s alleged fraud, the lawsuit stated, Court of Appeal and Federal Court judgments are invalid and must be set aside as provided under Section 44 of the Evidence Act.
Anwar’s lawyer said new facts would be presented during a hearing on the claim.
“Anwar is innocent. We will prove his innocence in court,” lawyer N. Surendran said.
Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and daughter, Nurul Nuha, were with Surendran at the courthouse.
“Even a single day spent in jail is cruel for an innocent man,” said Wan Azizah, who serves as president of the People’s Justice Party.
This is Anwar’s second sodomy conviction.
In 2004, he was acquitted of a sodomy charge filed in 1998. He claimed then that he was framed by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the party that leads Malaysia’s ruling bloc, and that was led at the time by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Malaysian government officials and UMNO leaders have denied framing Anwar.
Mahathir has since left the party and has joined with Anwar in criticizing the current prime minister, Najib.