Last edited: September 06, 2004

Anwar Prepares for Surgery in Germany

The 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 choking.

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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