KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian judge on Monday ordered opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to enter his defence on a sodomy charge, setting the stage for a trial that could boost Prime Minister Najib Razak's government ahead of a possible snap general election this year.
Judge Zabidin Mohamad Diah's ruling could hurt Andar's reputation among conservative ethnic Malays and affect the opposition's chances in the poll.
Following are some key facts about Anwar Ibrahim.
* EARLY LIFE
-- Born on Aug. 10, 1947, Anwar made his name as an Islamic youth leader when he led anti-government demonstrations against impoverished conditions in northern Malaysia in the mid-1970s.
-- He had a meteoric political rise under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who invited him to join Malaysia's ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), in 1982.
-- He was Deputy Prime Minister from 1993-1998 and Minister of Finance from 1991-1998. But Mahathir's long-celebrated heir apparent fell out with his mentor.
* THE DOWNFALL
-- Tensions escalated in 1998 when Anwar led a campaign against the alleged corruption and nepotism which he said characterised the business and political elite.
-- Mahathir sacked his deputy in September 1998, calling him unfit to be leader. Anwar was arrested the same month after leading 30,000 protesters through the capital and charged with sodomy and corruption. Images of Anwar appearing in court with a black eye and bruises sparked international outrage.
-- Anwar was jailed for six years in April 1999 for abuse of power and received a second, consecutive nine-year term in August 2000 on a sodomy charge.
-- He was freed in September 2004 when the Federal Court quashed the sodomy charges, but was still banned from seeking office until April 2008.
-- Anwar's People's Justice Party and its allies made historic gains in the March 2008 general election, winning five of 13 state governments and coming within 30 seats of taking control of the 222-member parliament.
* FRESH CHARGES
-- Just three months after being allowed to run for office again, he faced fresh sodomy charges on June 29 and took refuge in the Turkish embassy, saying he feared for his life.
-- A former aide made the allegations. Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison in mainly Muslim Malaysia.
* REJUVENATED OPPOSITION:
-- The sodomy trial has weighed on the opposition People's Alliance coalition, with Anwar distracted by frequent court appearances and allegations of wrongdoing.
-- But the alliance received a boost in an election last month in the state of Sarawak, capitalising on complaints by an ethnic minority to post its best performance in 24 years.
(Reporting by Razak Ahmad; editing by Liau Y-Sing and Ron Popeski)
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