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July 4, 2007

Anwar\’s lawsuit over gay slur by former Malaysian premier is dismissed

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

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Anwar Ibrahim in April 1998. Image: U.S. Department of Defense.

Anwar Ibrahim in April 1998.
Image: U.S. Department of Defense.

A defamation lawsuit filed by Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim against retired prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who had said Anwar was homosexual, was dismissed today by a High Court judge.

In his lawsuit, filed in January 2006, Anwar sought damages of 1 million ringgit (about US$290,000), against Mahathir, after Mahathir had stated at a human rights conference that he had to dismiss Anwar because he was gay – an accusation that had caused Anwar to serve six years in prison.

Mahathir had filed a counter motion, seeking dismissal of the suit on the grounds that it was scandalous, frivolous and vexatious. In a 48-page affidavit, Mahathir said Anwar was using the suit to “rehabilitate himself for high office”.

“The plaintiff’s action is unsustainable based on background evidence … and the [Mahathir]’s application to strike out is therefore allowed with cost,” High Court Judge Tengku Maimon Tuan Mat was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Neither Anwar nor Mahathir were present for today’s hearing.

“I have informed Anwar Ibrahim of the decision and he is indeed quite upset and he has instructed that we file an appeal as we are dissatisfied with the decision,” Anwar’s lawyer, Sankara Nair, was quoted as saying by AFP.

At a Malaysian Human Rights Commission conference in September 2005, Mahathir said he had to dismiss Anwar because having a homosexual in his Cabinet would have been immoral.

Mahathir’s remarks stemmed from sodomy charges brought against Anwar in September 1998, which along with corruption charges, disgraced Anwar and sent him to prison for six years.

Anwar has said the accusations were politically motivated to keep him from challenging Mahathir.

The sodomy conviction was later overturned after two appeals, but the corruption charges stood.

Judge Tengku Maimon noted that, although the sodomy conviction was overturned, earlier court findings proved the charge that Anwar had sodomized his former family driver, Azizan Abu Bakar.

“Hence, given the background facts of the case … it is apparent that the defenses are bound to succeed. No purpose would have been served in insisting that the defenses be proven at a full trial,” Tengku Maimon was quoted as saying by Bernama.

From the early 1990s, Anwar was being groomed by Mahathir, his former mentor, to take over as prime minister, but by the end of the decade, conflicting views on governance had deteriorated the “father-son” relationship.

With Anwar in jail, Mahathir retired in 2003 after 22 years in office, turning power over to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Anwar was released from prison in 2004, having his sentence reduced by the successful overturning of the sodomy conviction. He is barred from seeking public office until 2008. Earlier this year, he sought to be named leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, the party of which his wife Dr. Wan Azizah is president, but was prevented from doing so because of the political ban.

In other recent legal cases, Anwar had proven victorious. In 2005, he won a judgment of $1.2 million against author Khalid Jafri, who had written a book that accused Anwar of fathering an illegitimate child. DNA tests proved the child was not his. Anwar also forced a public apology from a former police chief who had beat him in custody in 1998.

Sources

  • “Tun Mahathir succeeds in striking out Anwar’s defamation suit”. Bernama, July 4, 2007
  • Agence France-Presse “Malaysian court throws out Anwar’s suit against Mahathir”. Channel NewsAsia, July 4, 2007
  • “Malaysia’s Anwar loses bid for showdown with ex-PM”. Reuters, July 4, 2007
  • Julia Zappei, Associated Press “Mahathir wins legal fight against Anwar”. Forbes, July 4, 2007
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