KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim, the de facto leader of the People’s Justice Party, has dismissed the idea that charges against former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak were “politically motivated” – a phrase Anwar himself had used to describe convictions that twice put him in jail.
Najib was charged on Wednesday (Jul 4) with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of using his position for gratification. They are linked to a probe into how billions of dollars went missing from state fund 1MDB.
“I don’t see how the charges can be deemed as politically motivated, because there was evidence,” said Anwar at a news conference in Jakarta after speaking at a leadership forum on Wednesday.
“I’m not privy to all the evidence, but I am privy to many of the facts, the reports submitted by various agencies within the country, and particularly the Department of Justice of the United States.
“But notwithstanding all that, this is also a test for Malaysia to respect due process and the rule of law, and I would certainly expect it since it is part of our manifesto in our agenda, and Mahathir has committed himself to ensure there is judicial independence in the country,” he added.
Anwar was imprisoned on corruption charges in the 1990s after a falling out with Mahathir Mohamad during his first stint as prime minister. In 2015, Anwar was convicted of sodomy, an outcome which he blamed on Najib’s government, saying it was orchestrated to keep him out of politics.
Now, Najib’s spokesperson says Mahathir’s new government – led by an alliance made up of Mahathir’s and Anwar’s parties – are persecuting him by arresting then charging him.
At the courthouse on Wednesday, Najib supporters held signs saying “No repeat of Anwar on Najib”.
As he left the court, the former prime minister maintained his innocence, and said the trial was the “best chance” for him to clear his name.
Mahathir had no comments on the case when pressed by media in Putrajaya after Najib was charged, but earlier this month, he told Channel NewsAsia that Najib’s case was “clearer” than Anwar’s.
Case management is on August 8 but these are the trial dates for now. https://t.co/tunkkFwHC1
— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) July 4, 2018
“The whole election was based on this accusation so people are not going to say, well, we are persecuting this man and all that,” he said in the interview.
“They know of the wrong things that he has done. Their worry is that he might escape, somehow or rather, good lawyers might get him off the hook,” he added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is on an overseas trip to Mongolia, said she hopes that Najib will be treated with respect and dignity.
In a statement on Wednesday, she said: “We respect the law. We hope MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) treats Najib with respect and dignity. I pray for justice for him and his family. Let the due process of law run its course.”