In a two minute statement, the presiding High Court
judge, Mohamad Zabidin Diah, said he could not "with
100 per cent certainty exclude the possibility that
the [DNA] sample is not compromised. The court is
always reluctant to convict on sexual offences
without corroborative evidence".
bout 5,000 supporters outside the court broke into
celebrations, chanting "God is great" and "reformasi",
the opposition's call for reform in the country of
28 million run by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN or
National Front) for more than half a century.
"Justice has been done, I am vindicated," the
one-time deputy prime minister told his adoring
supporters outside the court.
At his family home later in the day, Mr Anwar,
sipping tea, talked of his plans for the future now
that he was not staring at the 20 years behind bars
that a conviction could have earned him.
"Now that I am vindicated and freed, naturally I
will work with my friends and ... the coalition of
opposition parties to ensure we can wrest control of
Putrajaya [the country's administrative capital],"
"Our only concern now is to ensure the elections are
free and fair. I am confident, God willing, we can
The opposition leader said he believed his acquittal
was the result of foreign pressure, including that
of US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who
expressed her concern about the trial and called for
it to be handled "fairly and transparently".
Sexual allegations have tripped up Mr Anwar before.
Once the heir apparent to Malaysia's long-serving
prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, they fell out and
he was sacked in 1997 for campaigning against
nepotism and corruption in government.
A year later he was convicted on sodomy and
corruption charges – allegations he again said were
concocted to smear him. He spent six years in jail
before the charges were eventually overturned in
A re-energised Mr Anwar put together a multi-ethnic,
three-party Pakatan opposition group which won more
than a third of the vote and five of Malaysia's 16
states in elections in 2008, depriving the ruling BN
of its traditional two-thirds majority.
Just weeks later, his former aide filed charges
against Mr Anwar accusing his boss of sodomising
him. Mr Anwar described it as a "vile and despicable
attempt at character assassination" by the
government ahead of the elections which must be held
by early next year.
Mr Najib has already taken steps to recast himself
and his party as reformers. The verdict may help him
burnish those reformist credentials as he says it
gives the lie to Mr Anwar's allegations of a "fix"
and judicial partiality.
It will also soothe the jitters of foreign investors
alarmed by the prospect of civil unrest if Mr Anwar
had been convicted and ruled out of the forthcoming
James Chin, a political scientist at Monash
University in Malaysia, even cast it as a "win-win"
for both sides. "It removed a hot spot for the
government. Anwar is freed to concentrate on the
But Mr Anwar is likely to prove a formidable
challenge. He is pledging to roll back Malaysia's
authoritarian laws and scrap preferences for ethnic
Malays that ethnic Indian and ethnic Chinese
Malaysians say are unfair, policies that give him
strong voter appeal.