Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Anwar — Victim of overzealous prosecution

FEB 9 — I have been practicing as a criminal lawyer for almost 16 years. I have considerable experience defending accused persons who were being charged for sexual related crimes. My experience tells me that the prosecution will never charge a person for an offence of rape or sodomy if the medical evidence is not favourable to them. It is almost an accepted rule of practice or a legal norm, as far as the offence of rape or sodomy is concerned, medical evidence operates as oxygen to the prosecution.

It seems to me that such a practice is no longer adhered to in the current ongoing trial of Anwar Ibrahim. When the accused person is Anwar Ibrahim the rule of game is suddenly and drastically changed. When Anwar is charged the prosecution no longer seems to gauge the strengths of its case on the available evidence they have. When Anwar Ibrahim is tried the prosecution will, come what may, happily proceed with the trial regardless whether it has fragile evidence or no evidence at all against him !!

The only crime Anwar committed in this case is for having the name, Anwar Ibrahim.

I believe that if another person by the name of Ibrahim Anwar or any other Ibrahims allegedly sodomised Saiful the prosecution would not charge such a person when provided with the medical report prepared by doctors in Pusat Rawatan Islam ( Pusrawi ) and Kuala Lumpur General Hospital respectively.

Both reports, as I was told by lawyers in Anwar’s legal team, contain a very damning evidence against the prosecution in that they unequivocally state that there are no visible signs of penetration of Saiful’s anus. As far as the report of the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital is concerned, it was duly signed by three doctors. So what the prosecution have in their possession are the reports certified by four doctors ( one from Pusrawi and three from KLGH ) apparently dismissing the prosecution’s theory that Saiful was ever sodomised by Anwar.

People may ask why the AG, despite such a damning evidence against the prosecution, is still adamant, and not withdraw the charge against Anwar?The reason is pretty obvious, that is the accused person is Anwar Ibrahim. When Anwar Ibrahim is tried the prosecution will not care even with the existence of a hundred medical reports exonerating Anwar Ibrahim of any sexual offence.

To the layman, this question may crop in their mind. Is the medical evidence really significant in Anwar’s trial ? The answer to that is a resounding yes. As I have indicated earlier the medical evidence is oxygen to the prosecution’s case. The prosecution case dies the moment oxygen disappears or malfunctions.

It is a rule of prudence, as the lawyers call it, in any sexual related crimes, the evidence of the complainant per se is legally insufficient . Such evidence must be corroborated by other independent evidence.

Translated into Anwar’s trial, Saiful’s evidence alone is not sufficient to convict Anwar. His evidence must be corroborated. Of course a corroboration is not needed for all crimes. But in sexual offences, corroboration is highly significant in order to support the factum ( act ) of the alleged sodomy.

Why corroborative evidence is necessary in sexual related cases ? The legal practitioners say such evidence is needed because of the nature of such offences. In any rape or sodomy case it is relatively easy to allege that a crime has been committed by such and such person but it is on the other hand difficult for any person who is being charged to such offences to disprove such an allegation.

We can see clearly even before the court passes any verdict on Anwar, judging from the media coverage which appeared in Utusan and other BN’s controlled media, Anwar is as good as being found “guilty” by these so called juries. The media coverage was so vicious that one wonders whether Anwar’s, or for that matter, his family’s dignity brings any value to this irresponsible media.

The law says if you accuse somebody of committing a sodomy against you the law requires you to furnish corroborative evidence to support your allegation. That is why even in Islamic criminal law if a person is charged for sodomy, the prosecution must bring four witnesses who really see the actual penetration. That shows Islam also takes into account corroborative evidence.

And in Islam the standard of proof in sodomy case is very high indeed that is the prosecution must prove its case beyond any shadow of doubt, and the present standard of proof in civil law which is only beyond reasonable doubt. Thus in Islam any iota of doubt must be ruled in favour of the accused based on the maxim that “ the offence of hudud is withdrawn whenever iota of doubt is present ” . Islam holds the view that it is much wiser for a judge to err in acquitting 10 guilty persons rather than to err in convicting even one innocent person !!

In sodomy , like a crime of rape, the essential element which needs to be proven by the prosecution is the act of penetration itself. In Islamic law the same element also needs to be established by the prosecution in certainty.

Now how is the prosecution able to prove the element of penetration if they do not produce the medical reports/evidence? And how are the medical reports in Anwar’s trial useful to prosecution if they clearly say no visible signs of penetration to Saiful’s anus. The medical evidence is supposed to corroborate Saiful’s evidence but apparently in this case the same medical reports in fact exonerate Anwar Ibrahim. The rule is so simple : no penetration no prosecution. But the AG seems to hold the view that yes, no penetration but mind you we still have persecution to do!!

It is beyond question if Anwar is tried under the Islamic law, the charge, as it is presently framed against him, will never see the light of the day. Seeing the oral testimony of Saiful so far one cannot avoid to jump to the conclusion that it was a groundless or trumped up charge.

The AG should exhibit a high level of professionalism and integrity in the Anwar’s case. Intellectual honesty dictates that the prosecution should withdraw the charge against Anwar Ibrahim. Period. To prosecute a person in the absence of credible evidence is definitely tantamount to a prosecutorial misconduct and wastage of public funds.

The day that AG becomes the tool of the crooked politicians should have passed after the election tsunami in 2008.

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