KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8, 2010 (AFP) - Malaysia on Monday warned foreign governments not to criticise its justice system or "meddle" in the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The trial, which Anwar says is a political plot to undermine the opposition, is being closely watched by Western governments whose diplomats have attended the hearings that began last week.
"Foreign diplomats and missions must respect Malaysia's legal and judicial system," deputy foreign minister A. Kohilan Pillay told AFP.
"They are welcome to follow Anwar's trial as closely as they want but they must observe our laws and not meddle in our internal affairs by hurling all sorts of accusations," he said.
"The case has only just begun so these foreign countries should please leave it to Malaysia's judges to decide rather than creating their own trial by making damaging comments about our system."
Kohilan did not single out any countries for criticism but the government-linked New Straits Times on Monday reported a speech to Australia's parliament by Michael Danby, chairman of its sub-committee on foreign affairs.
"The Malaysian legal system is being manipulated by supporters of the incumbent government to drive... Anwar Ibrahim out of national politics," Danby told parliament last week.
"Perverting the legal system for political ends by charging Anwar with sexual offences is an affront to human rights," he added.
The New Straits Times quoted Kohilan as saying he would summon representatives of countries deemed to be interfering in the Anwar affair.
We are not doing it yet but after the trial is over, we will be briefing diplomats on the trial," Kohilan told AFP, when asked whether he would summon the envoys of Australia or other nations.
Anwar was sacked as deputy premier in 1998 during a power struggle with then premier Mahathir Mohamad and convicted on sodomy and corruption charges widely seen as politically motivated.
In 2004, the sodomy conviction was overturned and he was released, allowing him to take over the leadership of a reinvigorated opposition.
Sodomy, even among consenting adults, carries a penalty of up to 20 years in Malaysia, a conservative and Muslim-majority country.