Last edited: November 06, 2004

International Outcry Over Anwar Jail Term

Datalounge, August 9, 2000

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A chorus of international condemnation has greeted the sentencing of former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim to a nine-year jail term for sodomy, the BBC reports.

In April 1999, the Malaysian high court, which is dominated by officials loyal to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, sentenced Anwar to six years in jail on corruption charges. The move to jail the former popular deputy prime minister was widely seen as a bid to prevent him from challenging Mahathir in the general election.

News that the same court had, after a 14-month legal battle, convicted Anwar to an additional nine years in prison sparked sporadic rioting in the Malaysian capital and expressions of outrage from Washington and other regional capitals. Human rights groups joined the national declarations of protest.

Anwar Ibrahim for years served faithfully under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad until his arrest in September 1998. He was charged with violating Malaysia’s sodomy laws and detained under the Internal Security Act following an accusation of rape made by two men in Malaysian court. One of the two men was Anwar’s adopted brother.

Many of the government’s witnesses later told the court over the course of the trial that they were coerced into providing their testimony and that their so-called confessions were phony. Justices on the Malaysian court convicted him anyway.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was similarly outraged by the severity of the sentence and questioned the judicial independence of the Malaysian court.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand expressed their sadness and "deep concern about the adequacy and fairness of the processes followed in reaching this verdict."

Amnesty International called Anwar a prisoner of conscience and said he had been put on trial because of the challenge he posed to government leaders. Some of those arrested Tuesday were members of the opposition Democratic Action Party.

Prime Minister Mahathir denied Anwar’s allegation that he was a victim of a government conspiracy, telling the BBC, "It is impossible in Malaysia to have a conspiracy on such a scale involving literally hundreds of people," he said.

"We know and the general public knows that he is the one who is involved in some conspiracy to try and promote himself to be the prime minister," Mahathir said.

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