Given what we've seen of this case so far—to say nothing of the one before it—that promise is hard to credit. Mrs. Clinton is right to insist on fairness and transparency, but it's hard to expect either, given the evidence at hand.
Hillary Clinton had a diplomatic answer when asked last week about Malaysia's prosecution for sodomy of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. It's "well-known that the United States believes it is important for all aspects of the case to be conducted fairly and transparently and in a way that increases confidence in the rule of law," the U.S. Secretary of State said on a two-day visit to the country. Let's hope she used tougher language in her private meetings with Prime Minister Najib Razak.
This isn't the first time Mr. Anwar has endured this ordeal. In 1998, the then deputy prime minister was charged with sodomy just as he was about to launch a political challenge to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. So much about that case was so ugly—most notably the photographs of the beating Mr. Anwar sustained in police custody—that it became an international cause célèbre. Yet Mr. Anwar spent six years in prison before the high court overturned the sodomy conviction, citing conflicting or coerced statements from key witnesses. After returning to politics, Mr. Anwar led his opposition coalition to historic gains in the March 2008 national elections. Now he stands accused again of the same charge.
Mr. Anwar's accuser is a twenty-something former aide named Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who claims he was forced to have sex multiple times with the then 60-year-old Mr. Anwar. Yet when Mr. Saiful presented himself at hospital two days after the alleged event, he showed no signs of tearing or bruising, according to several doctors who examined him at two separate hospitals.
Yet if physical evidence in the case is slight, the political overtones are strong. Mr. Saiful has admitted to meeting then deputy prime minister Mr. Najib two days before the alleged assault. Mr. Anwar was jailed the day after giving his first nationally televised speech since his first incarceration. The opposition leader presents the only serious challenger to Mr. Najib and his ruling United Malays National Organization, which has held power for more than a half century.
The trial itself has raised further troubling questions about the nature of the prosecution. Among other irregularities, Mr. Saiful was accused of—and didn't deny—a romantic relationship with a member of the prosecution team, which ought to have led to the dismissal of the case but instead resulted only in the removal of the lawyer. Last week, the second set of doctors who examined Mr. Saiful disclosed for the first time that they made detailed notes about the three-hour examination—which was the basis for the charge. When Mr. Anwar's team asked for access to the notes, the judge denied the request.
Mr. Najib's administration repeatedly proclaims its fidelity to the rule of law, including in multiple letters to this newspaper. "The trial is proceeding for the simple fact that a private citizen filed a criminal complaint," a prime minister's spokesman wrote us recently, "and our legal system has the obligation to all citizens to uphold the law and follow due process, regardless of the political prominence of those involved." Last week, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman reiterated the government's commitment to a "fair and open trial."
Given what we've seen of this case so far—to say nothing of the one before it—that promise is hard to credit. Mrs. Clinton is right to insist on fairness and transparency, but it's hard to expect either, given the evidence at hand. - The Wall Street Journal