KUALA LUMPUR — The defence team for Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim closed its case on Monday, with a verdict in his long-running sodomy trial expected by the end of the year.
Anwar, 64, is charged with sodomising a young male aide in June 2008. He denies the allegations and says they were cooked up with Prime Minister Najib Razak’s involvement to cripple the opposition’s chances in coming elections.
“The defence has rested its case,” Anwar’s lawyer Karpal Singh told reporters outside the courtroom.
Lead prosecutor Yusof Zainal Abiden said he would still call four witnesses in the coming days to refute the testimony of defence witness Dr Thomas Hoogland, an orthopaedic surgeon.
The Dutch expert, who is based in Germany and had operated previously on Anwar’s back, gave evidence that the former deputy premier was unlikely to be physically capable of the alleged sex act.
It is rare for the prosecution to effectively reopen its case to call for rebuttal witnesses after both sides have rested, say legal experts, but this can be done if the judge allows it.
Following the rebuttal witnesses, both sides will be asked to provide final submissions to the judge over the next few weeks before he delivers a verdict on the case, which is expected by the end of the year, say defence lawyers.
Opposition leaders fear a guilty verdict would mean Anwar would be jailed ahead of national polls that are expected shortly.
Sodomy in the Muslim-majority country is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.
Anwar was deputy prime minister and in line for the premiership when he was ousted in 1998 in a bitter falling-out with then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Anwar was subsequently arrested and convicted on sodomy and corruption charges widely seen as politically motivated. The sodomy conviction was overturned and Anwar was freed in 2004.
He led an opposition alliance to historic gains against the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in 2008 polls, and the new sodomy accusation emerged shortly afterwards