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05 March 2024

Malaysia's Anwar vows to topple govt


Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Monday that "justice had been served" with his acquittal in a contentious sodomy trial and pledged to topple the government in the next elections.

"Thank God, justice has been served," Anwar told reporters after a Malaysian judge pronounced him not guilty after a nearly two-year trial that he has denounced as a government attempt to cripple his strengthening opposition.

"I feel vindicated, but we still have an agenda and a struggle. We now have to focus on the general elections," he said.

In a posting on his Twitter feed shortly after the ruling, Anwar said: "In the coming election, (the) voice of the people will be heard and this corrupt government will be toppled from its pedestals of power."

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who heads the ruling coalition that has governed Malaysia since independence from Britain more than five decades ago, is due to call new polls by early next year.

The court verdict had been hotly anticipated for its potential electoral impact, with the opposition's charismatic leader facing the prospect of jail.

It is the second sodomy verdict in a dozen years for Anwar, a former deputy premier in the 1990s who was next in line to head the country's long-ruling government until a spectacular downfall.

He had been groomed to succeed former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad until a bitter row between them saw Anwar ousted in 1998, beaten and jailed on sodomy and graft charges widely seen as politically motivated.

Once the sodomy charge was overturned in 2004 and he was released, the affair threw Anwar into the opposition, which he led to unprecedented gains against his former ruling party in 2008 general elections.

But new sodomy charges emerged shortly after those polls -- Anwar was accused of sodomising a former male aide -- sparking accusations they were concocted by the ruling United Malays National Organisation to stall the opposition revival.

Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia and punishable by 20 years in jail.