Malaysia's Opposition leader accused of sodomy

Anwar Ibrahim suspected of sodomizing his male aide, sparking fears he could be sent back to prison on the same charge that ousted him from gov't a decade ago.

Anwar Ibrahim  88 (photo credit: )
Anwar Ibrahim 88
(photo credit: )
Police opened an investigation Sunday into allegations that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim sodomized his male aide, sparking fears he could be sent back to prison on the same charge that ousted him from Malaysia's government a decade ago. Anwar denounced the allegation - made in a police complaint filed by the 23-year-old aide - as "a complete fabrication." The dramatic developments that began to unfold a little before midnight Saturday will have a severe impact on Malaysian politics, which have been in turmoil since the March 8 elections handed the governing National Front coalition its worst-ever result. Anwar resurrected his political career after leading the opposition to spectacular gains in those elections. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi insisted the government was not responsible for the accusation, saying there was no conspiracy "to cause (Anwar) trouble or harass him or raise such issues to undermine him." Asked about Anwar's denial, Abdullah said it "was common for an accused person" to claim he was innocent. Anwar said the accusation was engineered by "interested parties" to prevent him from exposing the national police chief, Musa Hassan, and the attorney general, Abdul Gani Patail, for their alleged roles in having him accused of sodomizing his driver in 1998 and abusing his power to cover up the deed. Those charges led to then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad firing Anwar as deputy prime minister. He was convicted on both charges, but Malaysia's highest court overturned the sodomy conviction and freed him in 2004. Anwar has always insisted he was framed to prevent him from challenging Mahathir for power. Anwar said he "recently obtained" evidence to show Musa and Abdul Gani fabricated evidence against him in 1998. "I believe we are witnessing a repeat of the methods used against me in 1998 when false allegations were made under duress," Anwar said in a statement early Sunday. Bakri Zinin, the federal police chief for criminal investigations, said the aide filed a complaint Saturday claiming that Anwar had sodomized him on an undisclosed date in a condominium in an upscale Kuala Lumpur suburb. Bakri indicated Anwar faced no immediate threat of arrest, stressing police had just begun their investigation. "We want to establish the allegation first to see whether there is truth or not," Bakri told a news conference. "We will conduct a thorough investigation and be fair to both sides." Sodomy, even if consensual, is punishable by 20 years' imprisonment in Muslim-majority Malaysia. Anwar had been attending a weekend party meeting in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, but he moved to a secret location early Sunday amid concerns about being arrested. "Because he is considered a threat to the government, we are concerned about his safety. He can't afford to be detained again," party deputy president Syed Husin Ali said. A person close to Anwar, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said Anwar could be in a foreign embassy in Kuala Lumpur after being offered security there. The People's Justice Party identified the accuser as Anwar's assistant, who started working for him in March. Anwar claimed the allegation was "clearly a desperate attempt by the ... regime to arrest the movement of the Malaysian people towards freedom, democracy and justice." The National Front coalition lost its traditional two-thirds parliamentary majority in March, returning to power with only a simple majority, and ceded control of five of Malaysia's 13 states to Anwar's three-party opposition alliance. Anwar did not run in the March elections because his corruption conviction barred him from holding political office for five years. The ban ended in April, and Anwar has indicated he wants to re-enter Parliament through a by-election, which would make him eligible to become prime minister.