KUALA LUMPUR, April 27— The Shariah Appeal Court allowed today a lawyer to voluntarily recuse himself from a qazaf (false accusation of sodomy) suit by former opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim after finding that he fulfilled all the required conditions.
Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, who had represented those sued by Anwar including a Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department (JAWI) officer, last month served notice to the court that he was voluntarily removing himself from the case.
Anwar had wanted the court to remove Zainul due to alleged conflict of interest due to the latter’s role as a member of the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Council (MAIWP) that appoints judges in the Shariah courts.
In another rare court appearance since he started serving a five-year jail sentence after being convicted of sodomising his former aide, Anwar was temporarily allowed out of prison to attend today’s hearing.
Anwar was seen wearing a suit in the hearing attended by his wife, daughters and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali.
The other judges on the three-man panel headed by Datuk Mahammad Ibrahim are Datuk Aidi Moktar and Datuk Hussin Harun.
Mahammad said today that the court was satisfied that Zainul Rijal fulfilled the necessary conditions in Section 38 of the Syariah Court Civil Procedure (Federal Territories) Act 1998, by using the required form to withdraw from the case.
He granted Anwar's application for Zainul Rijal to be removed from the case with effect from today, ruling that both parties will bear their own legal costs.
Anwar is appealing against a Shariah lower court’s decision to reject his bid to cite Cabinet member Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, Federal Territory Shariah prosecution head Shamsuddin Hussain and JAWI director Datuk Che Mat Che Ali for qazaf.
Anwar filed the qazaf application on July 9, 2008 at the Kuala Lumpur Syariah High Court, demanding that JAWI’s chief prosecutor take action on his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan for allegedly lying and failed to produce four witnesses to support the sodomy claim.
Anwar had also sought for the court to prevent Jamil Khir and Che Mat from influencing the chief prosecutor’s actions.
The court dismissed Anwar’s application two years later, ruling that it was frivolous and vexatious as the JAWI chief prosecutor has a quasi-judicial function where he cannot be politically pressured in the performance of his duties.
No date has been set for the actual hearing of Anwar’s appeal.