Malaysia's top court today upheld opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy conviction and sentenced him to five years in prison, a verdict he slammed—while standing in the dock—as the "murder of judicial independence." The case was widely seen at home and abroad as politically motivated to eliminate any threats to the ruling coalition whose popularity has slowly been eroding since 2008. Anwar is the most popular, vocal, and visible symbol of the opposition's resurgence and had become a potent political threat to PM Najib Razak. This was Anwar's final appeal, and he was led by police out of the court, presumably to start serving time on charges of sodomizing a 23-year-old aide in 2008. "They will continue with or without Anwar," the 67-year-old told his supporters. "Authoritarian leaders always believe the best way to deal with dissidents is to jail them, but throughout history, it has always backfired."
The verdict brought forth a torrent of criticism from the likes of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Federation for Human Rights. They called the verdict "disgraceful," a "black day," and "totally unjust." The Federal Court countered today that there was "overwhelming evidence" to support the conviction, which had been overturned three years ago. The court said Anwar's allegation that the case was a political conspiracy "remains an allegation, unsubstantiated by any facts whatsoever." In a statement released minutes after the verdict, the PM's Office said Anwar's case has gone through an exhaustive legal process, which "is now complete." Malaysian human rights group Suaram pointed out that that the political nature of the trial was underscored by the victim having met with the prime minister and senior officials before making a police complaint; medical records had shown no penetration.