Monday, June 30, 2008

Malaysia's Anwar files suit against sodomy accusation, seeks government assurance of safety

The Associated Press
Published: June 30, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim filed a defamation lawsuit Monday against a male aide who accused him of sodomy, vowing to clear his name in the second sex scandal of his life to thrown the country's politics into turmoil.

"I went through hell before," Anwar told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, referring to the first upheaval a decade ago when he was accused of committing sodomy with his family driver and an aide.

The accusations led to his ouster as the deputy prime minister in 1998, when he was arrested and beaten up by the national police chief. A court later exonerated him.
Anwar, who recently revived his political career and is seen by some as the next prime minister, has denied the new sodomy accusation, dismissing it as a political conspiracy.
Anwar is now holed up in the Turkish Embassy, claiming he fears a government plot to kill him. He fled there early Sunday, hours after his 23-year-old male aide filed a police complaint accusing Anwar of sodomizing him.

Sodomy is punishable by 20 years' imprisonment in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Anwar said he would not leave Malaysia or seek political asylum, but would remain in the embassy until "the government gives me a categorical undertaking for my personal safety."
"I was assaulted to near death before and my family and friends told me not to take things for granted," Anwar said. "I have every reason to suspect that it may recur again because they are more desperate now compared to 1998."

Anwar returned in spectacular fashion from political oblivion in the March 8 general elections, shepherding a three-party opposition alliance to massive gains that left the ruling National Front coalition with only a simple majority in Parliament for the first time in four decades.

He has since claimed to have persuaded dozens of government lawmakers to defect, and pledged to topple Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration by mid-September.
Anwar filed a defamation suit through his lawyers Monday in the Kuala Lumpur High Court, seeking unspecified compensation from his aide who made what Anwar branded as a "malicious" police complaint.

Anwar wants "to have his day in court as soon as possible and to further reinforce his position ... that this police report is a complete fabrication and is basically done as politically motivated," said his lawyer, Sivarasa Rasiah.

The developments have added to the turmoil in Malaysian politics, which last went through a major crisis in 1998 when then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad fired Anwar, ostensibly over accusations that he sodomized his family driver.

Anwar was sentenced to 15 years in prison on what he claimed were trumped up charges of sodomy and abusing his authority to cover up the deed. Malaysia's highest court overturned the sodomy conviction in 2004 and freed him.

But the abuse-of-power conviction barred Anwar from political office for five years. The ban ended in April, and Anwar plans to re-enter Parliament through a by-election, which would make him eligible to become prime minister.

Anwar wrote on his blog Sunday that he has been warned "that my assassination has not been ruled out" in efforts to "end to the transformational changes taking place in Malaysia."
Anwar's party said the Turkish ambassador had offered him protection. Anwar is known to be a close friend of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak denied there was a conspiracy and said the government "can assure him of his personal safety."

"This is not a question of political persecution. This is a question of the law," he told reporters, adding the government would "never" harm a politician.