KUALA LUMPUR, July 13, 2011 (AFP) - A high court judge on Wednesday ordered opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to begin giving testimony in August in his drawn-out but high-profile sodomy case.
It will be the first time the 63-year-old Anwar, who is accused of sodomising a 25-year-old former aide at an upmarket apartment in June 2008, has taken to the stand to testify at the trial.
Anwar, once heir-apparent to ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, has consistently said that the charges are politically motivated to discredit him, though the government has denied any involvement.
|AFP - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (L) is comforted by his daughter Nurul Izzah (R) after he felt unwell and fell on the pavement following a tear gas attack by police during a mass rally for electoral reform in Kuala Lumpur on July 9, 2011.|
High Court Judge Zabidin Mohamed Diah said the trial would continue on August 8 with Anwar expected to take the stand to testify.
"I hereby set the date for the defence to submit its case from August 8 to 26," he said.
But Anwar's lawyer Sankara Nair accused government lawyers of not allowing the defence to meet key witnesses including Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
"We want them to be produced (in court)... It's an absolute right of the defence," he said, adding that Anwar will file an application to ask the judge to order them to be interviewed before he testifies.
Anwar is also fighting to remove trial judge Zabidin. The former deputy prime minister claims Zabidin has prejudged his guilt after the prosecution made their case to the court.
In May, the judge ruled that Anwar had a case to answer after finding the prosecution's main witness -- the accuser -- "credible". That decision amounted to a prejudgement, Anwar's team says.
Anwar faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sodomy, which is illegal, even among consenting adults, in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Anwar was sacked as deputy premier in 1998 and found guilty of corruption and sodomy. He was imprisoned until 2004 when the sodomy conviction was overturned.
He then revived the opposition, forming a coalition that made major inroads during the last general elections, in 2008, threatening the Barisan Nasional's five-decade grip on power.