PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was wheeled out of the Palace of Justice a free man after the Federal Court acquitted him of the charge of sodomising his former family driver.
The three-person Federal Court bench reached a 2-1 majority decision when they allowed the former deputy prime minister’s appeal and overturned the conviction and nine-year jail term yesterday – exactly six years after his sacking as deputy prime minister.
The panel headed by Federal Court judge Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad also allowed the appeal of his adopted brother Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja, who was jailed six years for the same offence.
Court of Appeal judge Tengku Baharuddin Shah Tengku Mahmud
concurred with Justice Abdul Hamid while Federal Court judge Justice Rahmah Hussain dissented.
Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad held that from the record of appeal, he found evidence that the appellants were involved in homosexual activities and was inclined to believe that the alleged incident at Tivoli Villa did occur.
However, he said the Federal Court could only convict Anwar and Sukma if the prosecution had successfully proved beyond reasonable doubt the alleged offences stated in the charges based on admissible evidence and in accordance with established principles of law.
“We may be convinced in our minds of the guilt or innocence of the appellants but our decision must only be based on the evidence adduced and nothing else,” he said.
He also held that it was not safe to convict on the evidence of Azizan Abu Bakar alone, particularly as the offence was sexual in nature.
“In this case, Azizan’s evidence on the date of the incident is doubtful as he had given three different dates in three different years, the first two covering a period of one month each and the last covering a period of three months.
“He being the only source for the date, his inconsistency, contradiction and demeanour when giving evidence on the issue does not make him a reliable source. As such, an essential part of the offence has not been proved by the prosecution,” he said.
“Since the applicable law in this case requires that the prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt before the defence may be called, the same burden is required to convict the appellants at the end of the case for the defence.
“We are of the view that the High Court has misdirected itself in calling for the appellants to enter their defence.
“They should have been acquitted at the end of the case for the prosecution,” he said as he ended his judgment at 11am.
Justice Rahmah, who then read out her judgment, said the appellate court would not normally interfere with any sentence passed by a lower court unless it was satisfied that the punishment was manifestly inadequate or excessive or illegal having regard to all the facts disclosed.
“I am not convinced that there is any ground for me to say that the courts below erred, so as to warrant this Court to interfere.
“I agree with the learned trial Judge that the offences committed by the appellants were serious and demanded appropriate punishment so as to reflect public abhorrence to such crimes,” she said when dismissing the appeals against the convictions and sentences of Anwar and Sukma.
Justice Abdul Hamid said that by majority, the appeal was allowed with the sentence and conviction of both men set aside.
“We know people will comment for and against our judgments so we would like to make one request – before making any comments, we hope they will read the judgments first on the website,” he said.
Anwar, who was wheeled into the courtroom at 9am dressed in white shirt and navy blue pants, smiled as the verdict was read out.
As Justice Rahmah read her judgment, Anwar’s daughters went behind their father and as they did that, he placed his arm around their shoulders.
After the judges left the court, Anwar’s wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who was in tears, entered the dock with their two daughters.
There were also shouts of “Reformasi” by several members of the public.
Anwar, 57, and Sukma, 43, were found guilty by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Aug 8, 2000 on the charge of sodomising Anwar’s former family driver, Azizan Abu Bakar, at Sukma’s apartment in Tivoli Villa, Bangsar, between January and March 1993.
Anwar was sentenced to nine years’ jail while Sukma received six years and ordered to be given four strokes of the rotan. Sukma was also convicted by the High Court on a charge of abetting Anwar in the commission of the offence.
The Court of Appeal, on April 18 last year, dismissed their appeals.
Anwar was first convicted for corruption on April 14, 1999 and was jailed for six years.
He should have been released on April 14, 2003 after a one-third remission but had to start serving his sentence for the sodomy offence, which the court ordered to be served consecutively.