Anwar Prepares for Surgery in Germany
Straits Times, September 4, 2004
KUALA LUMPUR (Associated Press)—In
high spirits, Malaysia’s former deputy leader Anwar Ibrahim finalised plans
on Saturday to fly to Germany for back surgery to repair damage suffered
partly from a police beating in custody six years ago.
Three days after a court dramatically overturned a sodomy
conviction and freed him from prison, Anwar told a news conference that he
would be leaving before midnight on Saturday for a specialised clinic in
Munich to have the minimally invasive surgery.
‘We cannot wait,’ Anwar said. ‘The doctors insist I
arrive in Munich by Sunday so that the surgery can be done on Monday.’ The
operation should take three to five hours.
Later, a teary-eyed Anwar embraced a tireless campaigner
for his release—his oldest child, Nurul Izzah, 24—before she headed to a
university graduation ceremony to accept her electrical engineering degree. He
will not attend the ceremony.
‘She’s one of the top students,’ he said, his voice
The deposed deputy premier will leave on a scheduled
Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt and then make a
Lufthansa connection to Munich, aides said. He will be joined by seven aides
and relatives, including his wife, Azizah Ismail.
Malaysia Airlines has agreed to let Anwar keep his
first-class seat fully reclined during takeoff and landing, aide Azmin Ali
said. Expenses are being borne by his family.
Anwar, claiming to be in constant pain, has been asking
for four years to have surgery at the Alpha Klinik. He has increasingly been
confined to a wheelchair and neck brace.
In 2000, Anwar was examined in Malaysia by the clinic’s
Dr. Thomas Hoogland, but authorities refused to let him leave prison and
travel for the surgery, fearing he would not return. Hoogland said he could
not perform the surgery locally.
Anwar will be gone for at least three weeks, missing the
congress later this month of the ruling United Malays National Organisation,
where he was once deputy leader and poised to become prime minister.
The party remains quietly divided over his abrupt removal
from office in 1998 by then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Speculation has mounted that Anwar would seek to rejoin
Umno, the vehicle to power in Malaysia, and he has carefully not ruled it out,
saying he will work with any group interested in democratic reforms.
He was freed from prison on Thursday by Malaysia’s
highest court, which overturned his conviction and sodomy sentence. He still
had at least five years of his jail term remaining. It was Anwar’s first
appeals victory since he was convicted of corruption and sodomy in trials that
he contended were orchestrated to destroy him politically.
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