KUALA LUMPUR: In a sensational twist in the sodomy trial of the Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, a prosecutor has been dropped after being accused of having an affair with the star witness.
Defence lawyers said the move bolstered its charge that Mr Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was sacked and jailed on separate sex and corruption counts a decade ago, is the victim of a political conspiracy.
The prosecution said it was dropping Farah Azlina Latif from its team, following claims she was romantically involved with Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 25, who has accused Mr Anwar of sodomising him.
''This can be very difficult for us, but any personal matter, if it can have any implication in whatever form … will be handled very seriously,'' the Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail, said on Tuesday.
''This move is also to ensure that the smooth running of the case is not affected.''
An official at the Attorney-General's office confirmed his comments, and said that Ms Farah Azlina would be transferred to another department.
The defence said it had sought an official explanation from the prosecution after a leading Malaysian political blogger wrote that the lawyer was in a sexual relationship with Mr Saiful, who has a fiancee.
''The implications are serious,'' Mr Anwar's lawyer, Sankara Nair, said yesterday.
''There is a perception that Saiful could have been given access to confidential information of the trial and that would compromise the integrity of the prosecution.''
Mr Sankara said the development strengthened fears that there was a conspiracy against Mr Anwar, after Mr Saiful testified that he met prominent individuals including the Prime Minister, Najib Razak, before lodging his complaint.
However, the Attorney-General said that Ms Farah Azlina, one of eight prosecutors in the case, had no access to confidential information.
The sodomy trial, which began in February and has been punctuated by lengthy delays, is set to resume on August 2.
Mr Saiful, who was an aide in Mr Anwar's office, has accused the 62-year-old of sodomising him in 2008. If convicted, Mr Anwar could face up to 20 years imprisonment. Sodomy, even among consenting adults, is illegal in Malaysia.
Mr Anwar has said he is the victim of a plot to stop him taking power, after the opposition made huge strides in the 2008 elections, stunning the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been in power for 50 years.