November 23, 2015 at 3:21 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
U.S. officials meet jailed Malaysian opposition leader’s family

Anwar Ibrahim, gay news, Washington Blade

Senior National Security Council officials on Nov. 21, 2015, met with the family of former Deputy Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim who is serving a 5-year prison sentence for sodomy. (Photo by Johnleemk of LensaMalaysia; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Senior members of the National Security Council on Saturday met with the family of a leading Malaysian opposition figure who is serving a 5-year prison sentence for sodomy.

The meeting with former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s family took place in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

The meeting coincided with President Obama’s visit to the Southeast Asian country.

Obama on Nov. 20 met with Nisha Ayub of Justice for Sisters, a group that advocates on behalf of transgender Malaysians, and other members of the country’s civil society. The president on the same day told reporters during a press conference with Prime Minister Najib Razak that he raised the country’s human rights record during their meeting.

“We talked about the importance of civil society and issues, not just in Malaysia but in the region in general, and how we can promote those values that will encourage continued development and opportunity and prosperity,” said Obama. “I very much appreciate this conversation. I think it was constructive.”

Obama on Sunday during a press conference before returning to the U.S. defended the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial trade agreement that Malaysian LGBT rights advocates and labor groups in the U.S. and elsewhere have sharply criticized.

Malaysia is among the Pacific Rim countries that would join TPP.

“A lot of the work that we do — the Open Government Partnership that we set up through United Nations, the bilateral work we do in terms of improving transparency, the principles and rules that we’ve embedded in TPP — all those things are designed to raise the bar, to have people set sights that are a little bit higher,” said Obama. “Some will go forward, some will slip back. Paces will vary, but the trajectory is the same — and that is a world where ordinary people are treated fairly, there’s rule of law, there’s transparency, governments are accountable, people’s voices are heard, women are treated equally, minorities are not discriminated against.”

Obama on Saturday arrived at a dinner for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations with Najib.

The president did not meet with Anwar’s family while in the Southeast Asian nation.

Top court overturns landmark trans rights ruling

Malaysia is among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The Malaysian Federal Court earlier this year upheld Anwar’s conviction under the country’s anti-sodomy law.

Secretary of State John Kerry in August raised Anwar’s case with Najib while he was in Kuala Lumpur. The National Security Council and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights have also criticized the opposition leader’s conviction.

The Malaysian Federal Court last month overturned a landmark ruling that declared unconstitutional a law in the state of Negeri Sembilan banning Muslim men from wearing women’s clothes in public. Najib in August said his government will not defend LGBT rights and other issues that are not within the “context of Islam.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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