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DateLine Sunday, 6 July 2008





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Anwar rallies support against sodomy claims

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim reacted strongly to sodomy accusations Tuesday, filing a complaint against the police chief and the attorney general and planning a public rally.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who spent six years in prison on sodomy and corruption charges before a historic return to politics in elections in March, said the new allegations are designed to usurp his political gains. The complaint he filed Tuesday is about the charges leveled against him 10 years ago.

Anwar said the evidence used in that case was fabricated. At the time, the current police chief was the investigating officer in the case. The attorney general was the then prosecutor.

Anwar Ibrahim

"Do you expect me to have full trust in the Inspector General of Police ... who has been involved for 10 years in the personal vendetta and battle against me? Who is fearing for his own position?" Anwar told CNN. His supporters are also expected to hold a public rally Tuesday night, because Anwar said he did not "trust the system."

"So what do we do now? We go to the people," he told CNN. "I believe Malaysians are sick and fed up of these desperate maneuvers by the government."

Anwar was the heir apparent to former premier Mahatir Mohamad until 1998, when he was sacked and convicted of corruption and of sodomizing his driver.

He spent six years in jail until the nation's highest court overturned the sex conviction. But the corruption verdict was never lifted and it barred him from running for office.

Then came the national elections in March. Anwar helmed a loose coalition of opposition parties that won control of five of the country's 13 states. The coalition also won 82 of 222 parliamentary seats -- making it only the second time in the southeast Asian country's history that the ruling party failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.

Anwar, 60, is now eligible to run for parliament. And he has claimed that he has the numbers to form a new government with the help of lawmakers who want to defect from the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) coalition of current Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Anwar said the latest allegations are meant to sideline him again. Sodomy, even if consensual, is punishable by 20 years in prison in the Muslim-majority country.

"We are almost there with the crossover of support, with the huge uncertainties politically within the (ruling) party," he said. "So this is the last attempt to frustrate and derail the process." Prime Minister Abdullah told reporters he leaving it up to the police to determine the authenticity of the accusations.

"It is the police who should take appropriate action," Abdullah was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama. "What Anwar has said is not for us to decide. He will surely deny... The accused will normally deny the allegation."

Anwar has filed a suit against the 23-year-old male aide who is accusing him of sodomy. The aide said the incident occurred in a luxury apartment on June 26. Anwar also took refuge briefly in the Turkish embassy in Kuala Lumpur because he said he feared being assassinated.

The government denies the claims.

"Anwar's life has never been in danger," Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar told reporters Monday. "We have never taken any action that can endanger his life or his family. Why should we do that?"

Nevertheless, Anwar said he leaving little to chance.



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