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Saiful not a normal sexual assault victim – ‘The Trial of Anwar Ibrahim, Sodomy II’

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KUALA LUMPUR – For Mark Trowell, an experienced Australian criminal lawyer, alleged sodomy victim Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan does not strike him as a “normal” sexual assault victim.

The author of ‘The Trial of Anwar Ibrahim, Sodomy II’, which has been on the bookshelves since last week, said it appeared Saiful loved to hog the media limelight and he did not mind it – not at all like any other sexual assault victim.

Trowell, who is also an observer for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and LawAsia in courts around the world, said it was also not normal for a sexual assault victim not to have a bath for two days.

“I am made to understand that a Muslim, after sexual intercourse, is required to have the ritual bath before he or she can perform prayers. So, the question remains as to how Saiful did his prayers.

“In my 25 years of experience in criminal law, I have never seen someone not bathing for two days to preserve forensic evidence.

“On the contrary, I feel the victim would want to quickly have a shower to remove the perpetrator’s body smell.

“In some cases of sexual abuse, the victims would scrub their bodies until nearly wounding themselves, to remove the smell,” said Trowell, who is a Queen’s Counsel.

Familiar with Malaysian Customs

The senior lawyer, who provides reports for the IPU from the trials he observed, has worked extensively both as defence counsel and prosecutor in Australia.

Interestingly, Trowell did have some connection to Malaysia – his father lived in Ipoh during the pre-Merdeka era and as such, the West Australian lawyer is familiar with Malaysian customs.

His reports helped the IPU – the world organization of Parliaments – to take an informed stand on Anwar’s Sodomy II trial.

Trowell’s 306-page book is published by Marshall Cavendish Editions and was released at all major bookstores in Malaysia last Wednesday.

The author has been observing Anwar’s trial ever since the Sodomy I case more than a decade ago, and the abuse of power case that was taken up to the Federal Court in 2004.

Trowell said Saiful’s ability to meet then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and a top police officer at the Concorde Hotel two days before the alleged sodomy incident added further intrigue to the case.

“In Australia, it would take months to see a minister and Saiful managed to see Najib with ease, after an earlier meeting with him to try to get a scholarship,” he said.

Affair with Prosecutor

Trowell said it was also preposterous for Saiful to have had an affair with junior prosecutor Farah Azlina Latif, as claimed by Malaysia Today blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin.

“I checked with my colleagues in the Commonwealth countries and none knew of any case where a prosecutor had an affair with the victim. A prosecutor may have had an affair with police personnel, and this has been common, but never with the victim,” he said.

“This also raises another question: shouldn’t the case be thrown out by the trial judge (Justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah) when the matter surfaced?

“The fear is that although she is a junior prosecutor, she could have discussed the case with him during their meetings.”

Trowell said this would affected the trial since Saiful could have been coached to corroborate his evidence with that of other prosecution witnesses through Farah Azlina, for she could have known the statements of the other witnesses that were not provided to the defence.

However, he added, to the credit of the Attorney-General’s Chambers, they removed Farah Azlina from the team as soon as the allegation surfaced.

However, Trowell maintained, the judge should have dropped the case altogether at that point.

“The question remains as to whether Saiful truly did have an affair with her. I feel the judge was inclined to believe so, despite not wanting to take action against the prosecution,” he said.

‘Prosecution Must Be a Model Litigant’

The twists and turns in the trial led him to writing the book, which Trowell described as “not a political commentary but a case study” to provide legal insights into a highly-charged case.

In any court case, Trowell said, the prosecution should be seen as “a model litigant”, where it must conduct the trial fairly and transparently.

In Australia, documents on a case are given to the defence, regardless of whether these are in the favour of the defence or not.

“All of these are given by the prosecution. There is no question of withholding back anything. That is why case management is important to ensure the smooth running of a trial.

“As you can see in Anwar’s sodomy trial, some of the documents such as the witness list were not provided to the defence, despite justice Zabidin initially ordering so.

“That is why the trial took two years. In Australia, such a trial will not take that long. Usually four to seven weeks, at most,” he said.

Trowell’s book has a foreword by retired Australian High Court judge Michael Kirby, who commented that the book is “well written and a readable account of extraordinary events that are of significance to Malaysia, its laws and politics”. – Malaysian Digest