Anwar lawyers start final plea for acquittal, say evidence fabricated

    KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 (AFP) - Defence lawyers on Monday began their final submissions on why Malaysia's ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim should be acquitted of sodomy, saying he fell foul of a "high-level conspiracy" to fabricate evidence.

    "It is beyond dispute that there was a high-level conspiracy by certain people to topple (Anwar) by procuring and using fabricated evidence," Christopher Fernando told Judge Arifin Jaka.

    He described chief prosecution witness Azizan Abu Bakar -- the former Anwar driver who says he was sodomised by the politician -- as an "unmitigated liar."

    Should Anwar be convicted on Azizan's evidence, "it would contribute to the complete erosion of public confidence in the administration of justice," Fernando added.

    Arifin will give his verdict after hearing submissions from the defence and prosecution but has set no date. Anwar is already serving a six-year jail term imposed in April 1999 for abusing his powers to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct.

    Anwar, sacked by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in September 1998, says he is the victim of a political conspiracy because he intended to expose corruption and was seen as a threat to Mahathir.

    But he has been refused permission to call Mahathir as a witness. Anwar, 52, and his co-accused Sukma Darmawan could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted of sodomy. Sukma, 39, could also face whipping but this is not imposed on those aged over 50. The two are charged with sodomising Azizan on one night between January and March 1993 at Sukma's apartment in Tivoli Villa in the suburb of Bangsar. Prosecutors earlier twice amended the charge to change the year of the alleged offence.

    Initially they said it happened in 1994, then in September 1992, and then between January and March 1993. Defence lawyers had said building work on the apartment was not even complete in 1992.

    Fernando said Azizan had testified that he was told by a top policeman, Senior Assistant Commissioner Musa Hassan, to change the dates.

    "If this is not fabrication I do not know what else is. "The prosecution had no choice and had to get out of this mess so they changed the dates," he said, referring to the fact that the apartment was not ready for occupation in 1992.

    "We have proved that these charges are false and fabricated...I submit the accused are entitled to an aquittal as a right," Fernando said.

    He said a letter sent to Mahathir in August 1997 from Azizan and Ummi Hafilda, alleging sexual misconduct by Anwar, was false since it contained no reference to the alleged sodomy in 1993.

    "If Azizan was sodomised in 1993 he would have mentioned it in the letter. Therefore 1993 cannot be true. It's impossible," Fernando said.

    "This is the most important and memorable letter Azizan has ever written in his life. It is also a momentous occasion for Ummi Hafilda and she will never forget it until she dies.

    "As such, would you omit such crucial details?"

    Fernando added: "I would submit that Azizan is an unmitigated liar. He would lie at the drop of a hat and then change his story shortly after that." The hearing continues.

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