PUTRAJAYA, Feb 10 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been sentenced to five years’ jail after the country’s apex court today upheld an earlier Court of Appeal ruling that reversed his acquittal of sodomising former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
The verdict today effectively ends Anwar’s legal options to challenge the conviction. He now stands to lose his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat as the law bars anyone fined over RM2,000 or imprisoned more than one year from serving as a lawmaker.
The decision also leaves the Pakatan Rakyat opposition pact without a leader.
When reading out the summary of the case, Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria said the offence under Section 377B of the Penal Code was concerned with acts of carnal intercourse against the order of nature, and that consent was not a necessary ingredient to the commission.
“It is beyond reasonable doubt that PW1 (Saiful) was sodomised by the appellant (Anwar). The appeal against the conviction is dismissed,” Ariffin said when delivering the unanimous decision.
After hearing submissions from both sides and taking a brief recess, the judges came back to hand down the same five-year sentence that the Court of Appeal gave Anwar last year.
“The court dismissed both appeals and affirms sentence of five years,” Arifin said.
Earlier, Tan Sri Muhd Shafee Abdullah, the private lawyer appointed to lead the prosecution, argued that this was not the first time Anwar was convicted of sodomy and pressed for a heavier penalty as the offence permits for jail of up to 20 years.
He contended that the sentence should not be lesser than the six years Anwar had received during his first sodomy conviction that was later reversed.
“What I can do is to suggest that five years in prison wrong in principle. It cannot be anything lesser than what he had been given many years ago,” Shafee said.
Submitting to mitigate the sentence, Anwar’s lawyer Ramkarpal Singh asked the court to consider the opposition leader’s past contributions to the country and to ignore his previous conviction.
“Your Lordships should take into account whether Court of Appeal judiciously considered the sentence and reflect that these are very special facts to the case.
“If your Lordships are not with me… it is then my submission no good reason on enhancing sentence on the facts of this case,” he said
Earlier, Arifin said the Federal Court concurred with the subordinate courts that Saiful was a credible witness.
He also said that the apex court accepted the DNA evidence tendered by the prosecution, explaining that degradation did not prevent the samples from being usable and that there was no break in the chain of custody as claimed by Anwar’s lawyers.
“Based on the above findings, we agree with the Court of Appeal judges,” Arifin said.
Further, the Chief Justice said there was not merit to Anwar’s claim of a political conspiracy in the charge and that such a defence was not considered by the three courts hearing the case.
Despite the claim, Anwar did not deny being present at the time and place of the alleged sodomy, Arifin noted.
“We hold no merit in in the appellant’s unsubstantiated claims of political conspiracy,” he said.
Immediately after the decision, Anwar turned around and hugged wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the rest of his family burst into tears.
The opposition leader appeared stoic as he made a series of calls on his mobile phone to inform people of his conviction.
The sombre air that began descending on the courtroom as Arifin began his summary became overwhelming after the decision was delivered, as Anwar’s allies also began tearing up.
One by one, family, friends and supporters came up to hug him and say their farewells as Anwar tried to contain his own emotions.
Behind him, his young grandchildren looked on, apparently unaware of the significance.
“Are we done yet?” one grandson asked.
Dr Wan Azizah was seen asking her father to “be strong”.
Despite her advice, the PKR president and Nurul Izzah Anwar both began sobbing uncontrollably as the judges returned to deliver their sentence.
Anwar then kissed Dr Wan Azizah on the forehead to console her, before turning to address friends and supporters present.
“See you in some years,” he said.
His lawyers earlier asked for a one-hour adjournment in order to prepare submissions for his sentencing.
Anwar and his lawyers later huddled together in discussion.
The offence under Section 377B of the Penal Code that Anwar is convicted of allows for a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison as well as caning. The 60-year-old Anwar may not be caned, however, due to his age.
The High Court had in 2012 acquitted Anwar of the 2008 charge but the appellate court ruled on March 7, 2014 that the trial judge had erred when rejecting the DNA evidence produced in the case.
Lead prosecutor Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah has indicated the prosecution’s intention to seek a jail term of longer than the five years handed down to Anwar when he was convicted last year.
The Federal Court hearing was presided over by a five-member panel led by Arifin. Others include Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and Federal Court judges Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Embong, Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar and Datuk Ramly Ali.
Anwar was represented by a 14-man defence team led by former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram. Others include lawyers R.Sivarasa, Latheefa Koya, N. Surendran and Gobind Singh Deo.