Thursday, July 10, 2008

Anwar claims slander by Saiful

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 - His political career on the backfoot due to fresh sodomy claims, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today traded accusations with his young complainant by filing for Qazaf or slander with the city Islamic authorities as he seeks to reassert his moral credentials in the second such case in a decade.

The opposition leader took the Islamic route to clear his name in a move to discredit accuser Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan and police investigations as he seeks to appease the Malay Muslim community now wondering why he is not swearing on the Quran to protest his innocence.

"It is an Islamic religious issue, not an Umno political game but now it has become a political game. This modus operandi has been used for the last 10 years with the same players - the Inspector-General Police and Attorney-General," Anwar told reporters after filing the report at the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi).

Anwar and his lawyers Ahmad Shabrimi Mohamed Sidek and Kamar Ainiah Kamaruzaman filed for qazaf under Section 41 of Act 559 Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) 1997, where it is a form of slander specific to fornication punishable with up to three years jail and/or a maximum of RM5,000 fine. Under Hudud laws, slander is punishable with up to 80 lashes.

"I have been advised by Muslim scholars, ulamas and my legal counsel to bring this case under the laws of Qazaf. As Islamic issues have been raised with regards to this case, I have conferred with religious experts and have found provisions under Syariah law for this," he added.

Anwar said he took this course of action as "malicious attacks on my character through lies which demean me and my family" were of a sexual nature and are an "attempt to mislead other Muslims to attack my character and is clearly politically motivated".

"You realise this man has been used, he is under police custody and with police orchestration, video clips of him will appear making use of government-controlled media… challenging me to oath-taking. It has happened before in 1998, the same seedy fabrication continues, unabated with impunity and this is sickening to me.

Anwar has refused to be baited into Mubahalah, that is, taking an oath on the Quran as challenged by Saiful, who has said that he is prepared to do the same. Today, he said that it was never a matter of himself being prepared or not, but that he had been advised by religious experts not to make any statement or action as it would negatively influence other Muslims.

"I am very clear, if the Syariah court says it must be done, I will do it. There is no question in my mind about not being prepared to take an oath. I leave this to the Syariah scholars. There's nothing in Islamic law that allows you to take an oath in this position. There is even an Umno suggestion that one should hold the Quran on your head! The Perlis mufti's (Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin) view is for general cases which he explained to me, is not specific to my case."

"In a criminal offence, the burden of proof is on the accuser… if not (then) in a murder, you say you're prepared to swear you are innocent and then you are scot-free? You know what this means? This means once the oath is taken you can go scot-free and you say, leave it to God. Of course, we leave things to God but we must also investigate."

Kamar Ainiah said it was the accuser that should take such oaths.

"When a man who accuses another of fornication without bringing forward four credible male witnesses, that person is committing an offence according to the Act," she explained.

When quizzed over how this was difficult to prove -- as with rape cases -- she retorted she did not see this as a case of rape as Saiful surely did not look like he could be overpowered by Anwar, who is 60, and his claim can only be logical if it was consensual.

"That's up to him. He made the accusation, so this is why you do not accuse people falsely. This is the same as zina, if you accuse and cannot prove it, the punishment of zina will go against the accuser."

Despite Anwar's statements that he was turning to Syariah law as the sodomy charge had been turned into a religious issue, Kamar Ainiah insisted that the de facto Opposition leader had this option in his mind since the accusation was first made.

"He wanted to let the police investigate, but when he was challenged to sumpah (swear), we wanted to get Islamic justice. It is provided for, so we make use of it as an alternative to common law."

According to her, this provision has more commonly been used in the past between husbands and wives, a situation known as Lian, which can result in divorce. But she said in the current case, the charge not only brings the above mentioned punishment, but anyone found guilty of Qazaf will be considered Fasid, meaning this person will be considered "unreliable" and his testimony can no longer be accepted in an Islamic court.

She also claimed that "the officers seem keen to investigate the offence as it is an Islamic offence so it's under their jurisdiction and this is the first such case of this manner".

- The Malaysian Insider