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Anwar gets bail to fight election for wife's seat

Out and about … Anwar Ibrahim leaves court yesterday. He pleaded not guilty to sodomy charges and was released on bail.

M. Jegathesan in Kuala Lumpur
August 8, 2008

MALAYSIA'S de facto Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has pleaded not guilty to sodomy charges and been released on bail 19 days before the by-election that is expected to return him to Parliament.

"This is a slander. It is a malicious allegation and I am not guilty," Anwar said from the dock yesterday after being accused of sodomising his aide, Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 23, on June 26.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was jailed in 1999 and convicted of sodomy charges that were later overturned, has said the new allegations were concocted by the Government to prevent him from seizing power.

The Sessions Court judge, Komathy Suppiah, ordered that Anwar could go free on a bond of 20,000 ringgit ($7000) until the next hearing on September 10.

"A man is innocent until proven guilty. I don't think there's any likelihood that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will abscond," she said, using his honorific title.

Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is illegal in the conservative and predominantly Muslim nation, and carries a penalty of 20 years' imprisonment.

The charges indicated a consensual sex act, which the aide reportedly said took place at an upmarket Kuala Lumpur apartment.

Anwar welcomed the bail decision, which allows him to campaign for the August 26 by-election, and said the prosecution had been ill prepared.

"You can see how haphazard this has been. I am pleased with the decision and will proceed with my campaign," he said.

His wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who vacated her parliamentary seat in northern Penang state to make way for Anwar, condemned the charges as "politically motivated" and said her husband was innocent.

"It's a big relief that bail has been given. Anwar's health is not too good," she said.

Security was tight outside the packed courtroom, which was guarded by about 200 police, mostly riot squad officers. About 400 Opposition supporters gathered peacefully outside.

In anticipation of protests, roads leading into the capital, Kuala Lumpur, were blocked, causing traffic jams.

The allegations followed a declaration from Anwar that he would oust the Government with the help of defecting parliamentarians in the wake of elections which had handed the Opposition a third of parliamentary seats.

The coincidence has raised fears of a conspiracy. "The Malaysian Government appears to be manipulating the legal system to shore up support for its continued rule and undermine the Opposition," the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams, said in a statement.

"This case is really about preventing challenges to the Government's rule," he said. The ruling coalition has held power since independence from Britain half a century ago.

Human Rights Watch said Anwar's previous trials for sodomy and corruption, which landed him in jail for six years until 2004, "raised serious concerns about judicial independence and fairness".

The Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, on Wednesday denied Anwar's claims of engineered allegations.

"There's no conspiracy," he was reported in the New Straits Times as saying. "How could I insist that he be charged? The police are not so stupid to simply charge if there is no evidence."

Agence France-Presse

Sex, power and party politics

Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian opposition leader, said yesterday...of allegedly sodomising a former aide.Mr Anwar told the Financial Times that he was gathering...opposition coalition might be cracking.Mr Anwar was barred from contesting general elections...
Aug 1 2008, By Assif Shameen, Financial Times

Transcript Anwar Ibrahim

The FT's Assif Shameen spoke to Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's opposition don't think they have a case?Anwar Ibrahim: First of all, with all the evidence...just cooperate with investigators?Anwar Ibrahim: I am cooperating and I have cooperated...
Jul 31 2008, site

Anwar on bail after pleading not guilty
Burton in Singapore, Financial Times

To defend Anwar is to defend Malaysian democracy

We know Anwar Ibrahim well and have the highest regard for him...prosecute is being used to try to discredit Mr Anwar, the remarkable leader of the succeed it would be a tragedy for Mr Anwar personally, for the people of Malaysia...
Aug 7 2008, By Sandra Day O'Connor and Abdurrahman Wahid, site

Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian opposition leader, was released...attempt to derail a political comeback.Mr Anwar, who plans to stand in a by-election in...maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment.Mr Anwar welcomed the court's decision to grant him...
Aug 8 2008, By John

Malaysia's Anwar pleads not guilty to sodomy

Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian opposition leader, was released...attempt to derail a political comeback.Mr Anwar, who plans to stand in a by-election in...maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment.Mr Anwar welcomed the court's decision to grant him...
Aug 7 2008, By John Burton in Singapore, site

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