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Munawars absence irks judge, appeal against sodomy verdict risks dismissal

Anwar Ibrahim's former speech writer Dr Munawar Anees who is appealing against a six-month jail sentence for a sodomy offence, risks having his case being struck out due to his continual absence from court.

Irked by Munawar's absence again at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today after a few postponements for the mention of his case, Justice Mohd Ghazali Mohd Yussof told counsel Balwant Singh Sidhu that his client's attendance was required since the appeal was related to a criminal case.

"This is the Malaysian law. You cannot follow any other laws of other countries. In the event an appeal is filed, the appellant must be here. If the appellant does not attend the [hearing of the] appeal, I will strike it out," said Ghazali.

However, Balwant replied that the issue of whether Munawar has to attend the hearing of the appeal or not will be addressed at another time.

Ghazali also refused to postpone hearing the appeal pending the disposal of Munawar's two other related appeals at the Court of Appeal and set Aug 30 as a "final mention date".

"Whether or not the Court of Appeal settles the cases, I will set a hearing date on Aug 30. I will not postpone it anymore," he said.

Tortured under detention

Earlier, Balwant requested the court to only set a hearing date in the event the Court of Appeal disposed earlier appeals against a High Court decision to dismiss their applications for records of Munawar's movement during his detention in 1998.

Munawar requested the records pertaining to the arrest, custody and abusive treatment and tortures prior to Sept 19, 1998 when he was brought to the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court which jailed him for six months after he pleaded guilty to allowing Anwar to sodomise him.

He left the country after serving the jail sentence, but not before filing an appeal against his conviction and sentencing, claiming that he was tortured by the authorities into giving a guilty plea.

On May 12, last year, the prosecution withdrew the remaining five charges against Anwar, one of which was a sodomy charge that had implicated Munawar.

Anwar is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence for corruption and sodomy. He lost his final appeal against the corruption verdict and sentencing on July 10.

The Court of Appeal is yet to set a date to hear the former deputy prime minister's appeal against his sodomy conviction.