Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had his bail extended on Wednesday by a court hearing a sodomy charge against him, in a move that will allow him to continue spearheading a drive to unseat the government.
Anwar, who returned to parliament last month after a 10-year absence and was accompanied by his wife and children to court, denies the charge that he had sex with a 23-year-old male aide.
The judge has until Sept. 24 to consider a prosecution request that the case be transferred to a Kuala Lumpur high court, something opposed by Anwar’s lawyers.
If he is found guilty, Anwar could be imprisoned for up to 20 years, effectively ending the career of a man who has long coveted the top job in Malaysia and who was only allowed back into politics in April following his release from jail in 2004.
Anwar, 61, says the charge is politically motivated and aimed at damaging the opposition’s chance of winning over enough MPs from the ruling coalition to form the next government.
He appeared to back off a pledge to take power by Sept. 16 in comments made after late night prayers on Tuesday.
“After discussion with (coalition partners) PAS and DAP, the date can be postponed even though our target was September 16 previously,” Anwar was quoted as saying in the Star newspaper on Wednesday.
Anwar’s coalition comprises his own Keadilan party, the Islamist Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and the mostly Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP). It has 82 seats in the 222-strong parliament and needs the support of 30 government defectors to win power.