Last edited: November 06, 2004

Anwar Pleads Innocent in Malaysia

Associated Press, September 29, 1998

By Ranjan Roy

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister said Tuesday he was beaten unconscious while in police detention and showed the court a bruised face and body at his arraignment on corruption and sex charges.

In his first public appearance since his arrest nine days ago, Anwar Ibrahim — who is fast becoming a symbol of opposition to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s 17 years of rule — pleaded innocent to the nine charges against him.

Outside, riot police with assault rifles patrolled the streets to keep Anwar’s supporters from swarming the courthouse.

Since Anwar’s arrest, Kuala Lumpur has been rocked by street protests demanding his release and Mahathir’s resignation. Every day since Friday, several thousand people have defied arrest and police batons to gather and shout "Reform!" During Monday’s demonstration, at least 80 protesters were arrested.

Anwar, 51, hugged his wife and daughter when he saw them in court. He pointed to large bruises above his left eye and on his neck and rolled up his shirtsleeves to show his family the marks of police beatings on the first night of his custody, witnesses in the courtroom said.

The former deputy told the court he was led handcuffed and blindfolded to a police lockup, where he was greeted with thundering punches that bloodied his nose, cracked his lips and left his eye swollen shut for two days.

"I was boxed very hard on the left temple and right part of my head and neck," Anwar said, according to his lawyer, Pawancheek Marican.

He said he fell unconscious until morning. But his pleas for a doctor were ignored even when he told police he could not see with his left eye, walk properly or use one of his arms, Marican added.

Anwar also said police moved him to solitary confinement on the third day of his arrest and hustled him to and from various secret hideouts. A police doctor was allowed to treat him on the fifth day of his detention, during which neither his lawyers nor his family were allowed to see him.

On Tuesday, police tried their best to keep him out of sight, whisking him from a four-wheel drive vehicle into a secret passageway that led into the second-floor courtroom.

The court granted Anwar’s appeal for a medical examination. Anwar’s wife, Azizah Ismail, said later that an eye doctor examined her husband and determined that his retina wasn’t permanently damaged — for now.

"When I first saw him, I was shocked and stunned," said Azizah, who is an eye doctor. "After all he’s been through, his spirit is very strong and I’m proud of that."

Anwar was arraigned on four counts of illegal homosexual acts during his tenure as finance minister and deputy prime minister before Mahathir fired him Sept. 2. The charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and lashes with a whip.

The five corruption charges relate to alleged misuse of his ministerial powers to thwart the investigation of the illegal sex charges against him.

Anwar’s bail plea was referred to the higher court that is to try him soon in a landmark legal case in this Islamic country. No other senior politician has faced such charges of committing illegal homosexual acts.

Anwar replied, "Not guilty, I claim trial," as each charge was read out before Judge Hasnah Hashim.

Mahathir has said that he was compelled to fire Anwar because of the allegations of homosexuality against his deputy. But Anwar says that he incurred Mahathir’s wrath by challenging his rule.

Since his firing, Anwar led a campaign against his former boss, saying Malaysia needed a more liberal government, a cleaner administration and a media that was not shackled to the rulers.

The crackdown on Mahathir’s critics has continued away from the scene of demonstrations. On Tuesday, police said three people, including one of Anwar’s defense attorneys, were jailed under the harsh Internal Security Act — the same act used against Anwar — which allows indefinite imprisonment without trial.

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