Malaysia bars Anwar evidence

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian court Friday barred opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim from obtaining evidence on sodomy charges against him, freezing an earlier decision which granted him the information.

Last week, the High Court ordered government lawyers to produce witness statements and medical reports from doctors who examined the young man who has accused Anwar of unlawful sexual relations.

However, Judge Mohamed Zabidin Mohammad Diah on Friday issued a stay of execution on his earlier order.

"The court agrees with the prosecution and orders a stay order on this court's July 16 decision for the prosecution to hand over items of evidence to the defence," he told the court.

The issue of evidence disclosure -- which Anwar's lawyers say is vital to mounting a proper defence -- will now be heard by the Court of Appeal.

"These are documents which will eventually have to be shown to us in court during the trial and so there should be no reason why we can't get it now," Anwar's lawyer Sankara Nair told reporters later.

"Despite today's decision, we are now looking to the appeal court to get part of the evidence that has not been given to us," he said.

The judge set a hearing date of September 1 for Anwar's trial, which nominally opened earlier this month but which has not got properly under way and promises to be drawn out over many months.

Anwar's defence team is planning to pursue two other applications -- to throw out the case altogether, and to have the prosecutors removed -- before the trial can proceed.

Anwar, who was sacked as deputy prime minister and jailed a decade ago on separate sodomy and corruption charges, has said that the latest charges against him are a conspiracy to destroy his political career.

The 61-year-old opposition leader faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment if he is convicted of relations with 24-year-old Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who was an aide in his office.

The earlier sex conviction was overturned in 2004, allowing him to go free after six years in jail.