Anwar challenges ruling on Malaysian PM's appearance in sex trial

KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 (AFP) - Lawyers for Malaysia's ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim sought Wednesday the reversal of a ruling last week that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad need not testify in his sex trial.
High court Justice Arifin Jaka allowed a stay of proceedings for the defence to file an appeal and adjourned the trial to Friday.

Last Friday, Arifin ruled that Mahathir need not appear as a witness in Anwar's ongoing sodomy trial, preventing a courtroom showdown between the two rivals.

Anwar angrily denounced the ruling and threatened to order his lawyers to halt submissions in the trial.

When hearing resumed Wednesday, Anwar immediately stood up in the dock and tried to address Arifin. The judge initially refused to let him speak but later relented after repeated attempts by Anwar.

"I apply to Your Lordship to review your ruling not to call Dr. Mahathir as a witness," Anwar said. "The ruling has prejudiced my case."

But Arifin made it clear he would not do so, saying: "Go and look at the procedures. There is no procedure to review a ruling."

Anwar's counsel Christopher Fernando then told the judge the defence would appeal against the ruling which has placed his client "at a considerable disadvantage."

"In the interest of justice, we apply that a stay be allowed so that the defence is given the opportunity to explore all legal avenues before proceeding further in this case," he said.

"The charge against the accused is a serious charge dependent almost entirely on the evidence of one solitary, totally unreliable witness."

Karpal Singh, another defence lawyer, told Arifin that the premier had not officially applied to set aside a sunpoena for him to appear as a witness.

"It is our view the court has discriminated (Anwar) by a collateral proceeding to set aside the subpoena," he said. "The court has acted unconstitutionally... the prime minister is getting a special treatment."

Arifin then adjourned the trial to Friday but told defence lawyers to submit their application to the Court of Appeal immediately.

Fernando told reporters the defence would file their appeal with a certificate of urgency later Wednesday and hoped to obtain a hearing date by Friday.

The sodomy trial will have to be halted until the appeal hearing is over and a verdict is out, he added.

Had Mahathir been forced to appear, it would have been the first face-to-face encounter between the two politicians since Anwar was sacked in September 1998.

Anwar, jailed for six years' last April for abusing his powers, says he is the victim of a high-level conspiracy because he intended to expose corruption and was seen as a political threat to the premier.

He and his Indonesian adopted brother Sukma Darmawan are on trial for having sex with Anwar's former driver Azizan Abu Bakar. The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in jail in Malaysia.