PUTRAJAYA - Tempers ran high at the sentencing of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy case, with the panel of judges walking out during the Opposition leader's tirade against them.
The five-man panel had upheld the Court of Appeal's guilty verdict against Anwar during the morning session of the hearing at the Palace of Justice here yesterday.
Before making their decision on the prosecution's cross appeal to increase Anwar's jail term from five years, the judges gave the PKR adviser a chance to speak for himself.
Anwar maintained that he was innocent and that the case was a complete fabrication to stop his political career.
"In bowing to the dictates of the political masters, you have become partners in crime for the murder of the judiciary," said Anwar, drawing stern looks from the judges.
Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria interjected when Anwar continued his accusations, saying that line of argument was not relevant to the mitigation.
Defence lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram replied that his client had the right to be heard.
"He has the right to appeal but not to condemn the court," said Justice Arifin, who barely refrained from raising his voice.
As Anwar continued to rail against the judiciary, Justice Arifin ordered the court to stand down and the panel walked out amidst Anwar's speech.
Anwar continued to address the public gallery, thanking them for their support and vowing that he would not be silenced.
Police had to order several supporters to sit down and not take photos or videos of Anwar as the 67-year-old finished his speech from the dock.
Earlier, the defence had pleaded for leniency, asking the court to use its discretion to reduce Anwar's jail term or even have him bound over.
"He is no ordinary individual. His contributions to this country are numerous and far-reaching.
"Even in the opposition, he has contributed to the advancement of democratic principles," submitted Gopal.
About 10 minutes later, the five-man panel returned and dismissed both appeals - Anwar's against his conviction and the prosecution's to increase jail time.
"We uphold the previous sentence (of five years' jail)," ruled Justice Arifin.
The Court of Appeal had on March 7 last year sentenced Anwar to a total of five years in prison for sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 30, at the Desa Damansara condominium in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, on June 26, 2008.