PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court said it found no proof that another panel of judges and the Prime Minister’s Office had been in contact before opposition politician Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy conviction last February.
Unanimously dismissing Anwar’s final bid to reverse his conviction and five-year jail term, the Federal Court said today there was no merit in Anwar’s claim that the alleged “swift and premature” release of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) following last February’s conviction justified a review of that decision.
“There is no evidence to show that there was any communication whatsoever between PMO and the Federal Court either prior or subsequent to the decision of the case,” Chief Judge of the High Court of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin said in a courtroom packed with the media, Anwar’s family and supporters.
Zulkefli added that the PMO’s media division director Datuk Seri Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad’s affidavit-in-reply ― a sworn document in court ― had “confirmed this fact”.
In reading out excerpts from a 60-page judgment, Zulkefli also pointed out that the Federal Court had last February delivered a full written judgment with reasons and findings on issues raised by both Anwar and the prosecution during the appeal hearing.
“There is nothing credible other than the mere assertion of the applicant that the said PMO’s statement had given an impression that the applicant did not receive a fair and independent hearing when the hearing and arguments by parties before the court had already concluded a few months earlier,” he said.
Zulkefli also highlighted that there must be a clear separation of powers between the judiciary and the other arms of the government ― legislative and executive ― to uphold the rule of law.
“As for whether it was right or proper for the PMO to issue a statement commenting on the applicant’s conviction immediately after the court’s decision on February 10, 2015, we take the view that it is not within the control of the court to stop the issuance of such statement,” he said.
“As a separate branch of the government, the judiciary and the courts operate independently in their decision making process with no interference from other branches of the government,” he added.
As part of his April 30, 2015 application for the Federal Court to review a decision by another panel, Anwar had argued that it was necessary to prevent injustice and that his conviction was objectively unsafe.
In a court document, Anwar had among other things highlighted a statement by the PMO that was issued minutes after his conviction and before even his lawyers could mitigate for his sentencing, claiming this suggested that he did not receive a fair and independent hearing and therefore rendered his conviction objectively unsafe.Anwar had asked the Federal Court to either set aside his conviction and sentence by the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court or have the Federal Court rehear his appeal.
On February 10, 2015, the Federal Court upheld an earlier 2014 ruling by the Court of Appeal for the conviction and five-year prison term of Anwar over the sodomy of his former political aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008.
During the Federal Court’s October 12 hearing of Anwar’s review application, his lead counsel Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram highlighted that the PMO issued the statement just 15 minutes after the apex court handed down its decision last February 10 and before the judges decided on Anwar’s sentencing.
Gopal questioned why it would issue a statement in this case when none had come previously at any stage in Anwar’s first sodomy case, of which he was later acquitted. Gopal claimed that this statement showed the PMO’s vested interest in Anwar’s case, dubbed Sodomy II, and bolstered the latter’s allegation that there was a “political conspiracy” against him.
But Tengku Sariffuddin, who identified himself as the media department director in the PMO, had in his affidavit explained that two press statements had been prepared in advance for both eventualities in Anwar’s Sodomy II case at the Federal Court, owing to the case being of “great public interest”.
This was why the department was able to release a statement moments after Anwar’s conviction was upheld in February last year, he said.
Tengku Sariffudin stressed that the PMO’s media statement did not show that it already knew the decision in Anwar’s case before it was read out in court and also did not give the impression that he did not get a fair and independent hearing.
In the same affidavit which was read out partially in court by a government lawyer, Tengku Sariffudin had also denied that the PMO colluded with the courts or anyone else to determine or influence the decision in Anwar’s sodomy case.
By The Malay Mail Online