Last edited: November 06, 2004

Anwar Trial Set To Resume Tuesday

Associated Press, January 23, 2000

By Alvin Ung Associated Press Writer

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - After two months in isolation, a former deputy prime minister whose ouster has divided Malaysia will return to the stand Tuesday in his sex trial, where he’s expected to launch more attacks against the prime minister.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sacked Anwar Ibrahim from his post in September 1998, saying his longtime protege was unfit for government. Anwar was then convicted of corruption and is serving a six-year jail term.

In a sordid sex trial that has scandalized this conservative Southeast Asian nation, Anwar now faces 20 additional years if convicted of sodomy, a crime in Malaysia.

Anwar’s lawyers say they will produce witnesses who can provide alibis to prove that Anwar did not sodomize his former family driver six years ago, as accused.

Anwar, 53, denies all the charges against him, saying they are part of a political conspiracy to end his challenge to Mahathir’s longtime rule.

Since the sex trial started in June, Anwar has accused Mahathir and his former Cabinet colleagues of corruption, gambling and even involvement in murder. Anwar often sat in the dock scrawling off-the-cuff statements accusing top government officials of fabricating the charges against him.

The trial was postponed on Nov. 15 after High Court Judge Ariffin Jaka said he needed medical treatment for a backache.

A few days after the postponement, Mahathir announced snap elections. His ruling National Front coalition romped to victory in the Nov. 29 election, clinching a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Anwar initially said he wanted to run in the election, but was blocked by a law that barred him because of his corruption conviction.

Instead, his wife, Azizah Ismail, won the seat Anwar had held for 16 years. But almost all the other top candidates in the party that championed Anwar’s cause lost by narrow margins.

Since then, more Anwar allies have come under fire. Last week, courts charged three opposition leaders with sedition and leaking state secrets, while two others were charged with sedition. All five were arrested and released on bail.

Among those being prosecuted is Karpal Singh, a longtime Mahathir critic and Anwar’s main defense attorney. Karpal was charged with sedition after he alleged during the sodomy trial that "people in high places" had tried to poison his client.

Gobind Singh Deo, Karpal’s son and also a member of the defense team, said that his father would continue fighting for Anwar, whose ouster and trials have dominated the political scene here for nearly 1 1-2 years. Gobind described the sedition charge as "frivolous."

"Nobody intimidates us," he told The Associated Press. "We must be assured that our role in court is free from any kind of interference or threat."

The defense expects the trial to last two more months. Anwar’s lawyers still want Mahathir to testify as a witness, but many political observers believe the 74-year-old prime minister will avoid taking the stand.

The trial has been interrupted several times since September, when Anwar spent several weeks in a hospital for severe headaches and high blood pressure after claiming that he was being poisoned in prison.

The former deputy prime minister, who is serving his sentence in a high-security prison outside the capital, has been allowed hour long family visits once every three weeks.

Defense lawyer Sankaran Nair, contacted by telephone Sunday, said Anwar was in good spirits and his health was improving.

"He’s a fighter," Sankaran said. "He’s not giving up."

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