A Malaysian federal court on Wednesday, 14 December, rejected jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's final bid to set aside his sodomy conviction and a five-year jail term. The jury ruled collectively that Ibrahim's application for a review of his 2014 conviction was null.
"This is not a fit or proper case for this court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction to initiate a review," Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, the Chief Judge of Malaya, said as he read excerpts from a 60-page ruling.
However, the top politician remained firm and said, "This is not the end of the road ... I have pleaded and reiterated my innocence, but the judiciary has ignored my pleas."
"This is a long walk to freedom," the 69-year-old leader told reporters in the court after the verdict.
Ibrahim, who was a rising star in the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, was convicted and imprisoned for sodomising a former aide.
But, he and his aides believed that the charges were framed against him to end his political career as he was the greatest threat to Prime Minister Najib Razak and his coalition, after leading a three-party opposition alliance to dramatic electoral gains in 2013.
The verdict attracted a huge number of pro-Ibrahim supporters outside the court. The wife, children and grandchildren of Ibrahim were present in the courtroom.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch, referred the ruling as a "real tragedy for justice".
He added, "With this final decision running roughshod over Anwar's rights and sending him back to prison, Najib and the ruling UMNO party have just fired the starting gun on the expected 2018 election by permanently sidelining the opposition's most capable leader."
Reports suggested that Ibrahim would be released after serving another 16 months in jail, as Malaysian law grants a one-third reduction of jail terms for good behaviour. However, he would not be allowed to hold any political office after the release and also won't get the chance to contest the next election that is expected to be held by 2018.