I have been a trial observer in Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trials since 1999. In fact, I have only missed to observe his trial once -that was when the Malaysian Court of Appeals overturned the High Court’s previous decision acquitting him from all charges.
I made it a point hence to observe oral arguments in Ibrahim’s case before the Malaysian Supreme Court. Similar to ours, the Malaysian Supreme Court sits in many divisions. The proceedings I had the chance to observe had five justices on it.
Unfortunately, my commitments at home did not allow me to observe for more than two days of oral arguments. I thought that the two days would be enough because in our own Supreme Court, very seldom will the Court hear a matter for more than two sittings.
But the Malaysian Court is different, Unlike ours, which will only hear issues of law, the Malaysian Court heard arguments point by point on why the Court of Appeals erred in reversing the High Court. I had the privilege of hearing two children of the revered but recently passed barrister Karpal Singh, both of whom argued that the Appellate Court erred in convicting Ibrahim on the basis of dubious DNA evidence.
While DNA as a science is itself accepted, what made the use of DNA evidence dubious in Ibrahim’s case was the fact that while the DNA extracted from a towel, a comb and a tooth brush allegedly used by Ibrahim came from one and the same person, there was nonetheless no direct evidence that they were in fact the DNA of Ibrahim! DNA as a science would itself confirm if DNA found from an object is from a particular person. But in the case of Ibrahim, the Appellate court overturned his conviction on the basis of mere circumstantial evidence that they could only have come form Ibrahim, despite the absence of scientific link to him.
This kind of a conclusion would not have been possible in the Philippine or any other jurisdiction with the semblance of an independent judiciary. The fact that the Malaysian Appellate Court convicted him under this dubious condition could only mean that it abdicated its independence and agreed to be a tool of the ruling party, UMNO, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, in an effort to stymie Ibrahim and the rest of the country’s opposition into surrender.
But battle tested democrats don’t succumb to threats easily. By highlighting the obvious, Anwar has turned the table on the Malaysian Judiciary. No court in this planet could have convicted him on the basis of DNA evidence with no direct link to him. The questions now is whether the Malaysian Supreme Court will exhibit independence and acquit Ibrahim, or be swayed by the ruling party as did the Court of Appeals. In a way, what I observed was the Malaysian Courts on trial, and not just Anwar Ibrahim’s case.
All freedom loving people of the world eagerly await the outcome of this trial. For with it is also a verdict on the independence and integrity of the Malaysian Courts.