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Malaysia's Anwar faces civil lawsuit by ex-aide accusing him of sodomy

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim faces a hefty civil lawsuit by a former male aide who has accused the opposition leader of sodomizing him, Anwar's lawyers said on Wednesday, calling the suit “politically motivated.”

The suit, filed in June by Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, seeks damages of 50 million ringgit (US$15.7 million) and adds to mounting headaches for the opposition leader.

Anwar, 67, is fighting to overturn a March criminal conviction on charges that he sodomized Saiful in 2008, a ruling that Anwar calls a smear by the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO).

Anwar is currently also embroiled in a bitter dispute with a member of his three-party opposition alliance that threatens to break apart the coalition, whose recent electoral successes have put severe pressure on UMNO's long-ruling regime.

Anwar's lawyers said he must file a defense to Saiful's civil suit on Sept. 3.

“It is politically motivated to smear Anwar's name. It is a baseless suit which we will defend vigorously in court,” said N. Surendran, Anwar's counsel.

Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, even if consensual, and punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

Anwar's legal battles have gripped Malaysian politics for nearly two decades.

A one-time rising UMNO star, Anwar was ousted in a bruising power struggle and convicted and jailed on an earlier, separate sodomy charge in 1998.

He maintains UMNO is manipulating the courts to wage a long-term vendetta to blacken his name and halt the opposition's momentum.

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