Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anwar Arrested


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Police arrested Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Wednesday, less than an hour before a deadline for him to appear at police headquarters to answer allegations that he sodomized a male aide.About a dozen policemen, some of them wearing balaclavas, cordoned off the road leading to Anwar's house and stopped his car, said his lawyer Sankara Nair. The policemen informed Anwar that they had orders to arrest him, said his lawyer Sankara Nair.

"They arrested him. No reason was given," said Nair. He said Anwar was bundled into a police car and taken to the police headquarters. No one else from Anwar's entourage was allowed to get into the car with him, he said. There was no trouble or violence.

It was not clear why Anwar was arrested since he had said he would present himself for interrogation before the Wednesday 2 p.m. deadline set by the police. Earlier Wednesday, Anwar told reporters that he wants the police to "conduct the investigation professionally."

At the same time, he said, "I will give my fullest cooperation" to the police, he said. He has denied the sodomy accusation, made in a police complaint by the male aide last month, as a political conspiracy.

The accusation recreated a drama surrounding similar accusations that he faced in 1998 when he was deputy prime minister and finance minister. The accusation led to his dismissal from the government and subsequent conviction and imprisonment.

Malaysia's Supreme Court later overturned the conviction, but by then Anwar had served six years in jail on a related abuse of power charge. He was freed in 2004, when he revived his political career as an opposition leader.

"There is no basis for this whole fabrication and malicious attacks. It is just a repeat of the 1998 script. You can see the pattern," Anwar said before his arrest.

Anwar can be held in custody for up to 14 days, after which he must be charged. Sodomy is a non-bailable offense, punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

The sodomy accusation has hampered his campaign to topple the government, which suffered badly at the hands of his three-party People's Alliance in the March 8 general elections.

The ruling National Front coalition, which has traditionally enjoyed a two-thirds majority, now has only a 30-seat advantage over the opposition. Anwar's charisma and strategic skills were credited with boosting the opposition's strength in the 222-member Parliament from 19 to 82 seats.



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