A State Department official told the Washington Blade that Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton met with Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur “to express concern over his case.”
Malaysian authorities in 2008 accused Anwar of sodomizing an aide who worked for his party.
The Malaysian High Court in 2012 acquitted Anwar, but prosecutors quickly re-filed the charges against him.
An appeals court in 2014 overturned the acquittal and sentenced Anwar to five years in prison. Malaysia’s highest court in 2015 upheld his conviction.
The National Security Council, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and human rights groups that include Human Rights Watch have urged the Malaysian government to release Anwar.
“We are deeply concerned by Anwar Ibrahim’s ongoing, politically-motivated detention,” the State Department official told the Blade.
“The decision to prosecute Anwar, and his trial, have raised serious concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the courts,” added the official.
Malaysia is among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015 raised Anwar’s case with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during a meeting in Kuala Lumpur. A State Department spokesperson told the Blade that Kerry requested Anwar receive “much needed medical attention.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday met with Najib in Kuala Lumpur.
The State Department official with whom the Blade spoke did not say whether Tillerson specifically raised Anwar’s case during his meeting with Najib.
“In our discussions with the Malaysian government at every level, we continue to stress that fairness, transparency, and the rule of law are essential to promote confidence in Malaysia’s judicial system and democracy,” the official told the Blade.