By Barani Krishnan
A decade ago, Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was on trial for sodomy and corruption in a trial that exposed the seamy side of Malaysian justice and the anxieties of a young country grappling with a crushing financial crisis and civil unrest.
Anwar is Malaysia's best known political figure, courted in the U.S. and Europe and probably the only man who can topple the government that has led this Southeast Asian country for the past 51 years. Photo: Anwar Ibrahim, with a bruised eye, at court on Sept 30, 1998 during his his first trial. REUTERS/David Loh Now the leader of the opposition, will go on trial next week again charged with sodomising a 23-year old male aide. The trial once again looks likely to provide gory evidence and bringing some unwanted attention from the world's media on this Southeast Asian country of 27 million people. It could also embarrass the government and draw international criticism.
Anwar vowed in a recent interview to fight what he says are trumped up charges.
The 14 months I spent covering the 1998 trials saw Anwar accused of sodomy with three men and having sex with a woman over a period of years. This case is simpler, there is just one accuser. All homosexual acts are illegal in this mainly Muslim country and sex outside marriage is illegal for Muslims.
The first trial was gruelling. Lines began as early as four in the morning as people tried to get into the court that could seat less than 200. Most of the spectators were ordinary people, but there was a sprinkling of dignitaries and businessmen who had known Anwar when he was in office.