Friday, January 20, 2012

Anwar Ibrahim Case: Making An Appeal Unappealing

When the popular movement broke into celebration over the acquittal of Anwar, one can still feel an undercurrent of apprehension in Anwar and the leadership of the opposition, whether the whole thing is over, finally and absolutely. The defense, as well as the opposition, has not quite rested, even with the acquittal.
Almost immediately upon the acquittal, Karpal Singh, lead counsel, called upon the AG not to file an appeal. This was shortly followed by the Bar Council of Malaysia recommending the AG not to file an appeal, a move seen by many as going against the grain of professional ethics or impartiality, indeed against the principle of justice itself.
Right from the beginning the opposition stubbornly clung to the ‘conspiracy theory’, refusing to draw the line between legal and the political. To the opposition, the trial of Anwar is a trial against the opposition. The acquittal was greeted with a triumphant mood signifying a victory for the opposition and a disgrace for UMNO. All indications point this way, the banners, the chanting, the celebrative congratulatory messages among opposition supporters. It was as if the opposition had won the election and UMNO had been vanquished.
The point is the trial was never perceived and projected by the opposition as the trial of an individual, not even as leader of the opposition, but as the trial of the opposition itself. It was consistently billed as ‘ opposition versus state’, only that it was personified as ‘Anwar versus Najib the Prime Minister’.
Immediately after his acquittal, Anwar was interviewed by Al Jazeera outside the court complex, amidst a jubilant crowd of supporters. He was asked if his acquittal had somewhat given a lie to the conspiracy theory, he responded in the negative. After railing against aspects of the trial, he said it is to be seen if the judiciary is really independent, almost as if anticipating an appeal. He was not yet willing to put to rest the charge of conspiracy.  
As the deadline for the AG to file an appeal draws near, Lim Kit Siang called upon the AG not to appeal, in an intonation characteristic of political intimidation. He said an appeal would destroy whatever ‘little faith’ the public has in the independence of the judiciary. Such statement clearly reflects the political framing of the trial beyond the legal.
Hours ago I read the AG has filed an appeal (according to the media). The defense has already responded I think. Sankara Nair is quick to frame the AG's move as 'persecution' rather than 'prosecution' of a political leader.
Clearly, even as the AG contemplates his move whether to appeal, the defense and the opposition had already launched its defense. By all indications we know in which direction this will take.  An appeal had been anticipated right from the point of acquittal and preemptive move had been taken to make it appear unsavory and unappealing to the public. If this is something to go by, clearly the trial is going to be conducted well beyond the court and the legal. Perhaps the opposition will fight it more in the political arena, both local and international, in the street, the media, through the embassies and the foreign press.          

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