World News

Malaysia's Anwar sodomy trial postponed until May

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The sodomy trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been postponed to May, prolonging tension over what the opposition says is a politically motivated case.

Judge Zabidin Mohd Diah Thursday ordered the deferral after the defense asked for dates that would allow Anwar to attend parliament.

The trial was due to have resumed Thursday with a defense cross examination of his 23 year-old male accuser.

Sodomy is a criminal offence in this mainly Muslim country and if convicted, the 63 year-old Anwar could be sentenced to up to 20 years jail, effectively ending his political career.

“This is a malicious, trumped up case and shouldn’t have started in the first place,” Anwar told reporters outside court.

He was first tried on corruption charges and then for sodomy after his sacking as deputy prime minister in 1998 amid a political feud with then premier Mahathir Mohamad.

His sodomy conviction was overturned in 2004, freeing him from a six-year prison sentence to lead a three-party opposition alliance that staged its biggest electoral success in 2008.

The opposition deprived the government of its two-thirds parliamentary majority and ended up in control of five of the country’s 13 states.

Anwar returned to parliament after a bar on him holding office lapsed and has led the opposition to victory in seven out of nine state and national by-elections since the 2008 polls.

Reporting by Razak Ahmad; Editing by Nick Macfie