KUALA LUMPUR, January 9, 2012 (AFP) - The surprise acquittal Monday of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in a politically-charged sodomy trial proves the country's courts are free of manipulation, the government said.
"Malaysia has an independent judiciary and this verdict proves that the government does not hold sway over judges' decisions," information minister Rais Yatim said in a statement after Anwar was cleared.
A Malaysian judge pronounced Anwar not guilty after a nearly two-year trial that he has denounced as a government attempt to cripple his strengthening opposition.
The verdict defied the expectations of many political observers and even Anwar himself, who had called the trial a farce, alleging that a guilty verdict had been predetermined.
Anwar alleges that the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak had become bent on eliminating him as a political threat after he led a once-insignificant opposition to historic election gains in 2008.
Najib must call new polls by early next year.
Apparently with those polls in mind, he has recently announced he would scrap a range of laws long viewed as oppressive, in a drive to improve civil liberties that the opposition has met with scepticism.
"The current wave of bold democratic reforms introduced by Prime Minister Najib Razak will help extend this transparency to all areas of Malaysian life," Rais said.