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Anwar Ibrahim Freed On Bail

Police freed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on bail Thursday after holding him overnight in connection with a sodomy accusation that abruptly suspended his campaign to unseat the government.

In a cell phone text message to reporters, Anwar’s lawyer Sankara Nair said his client, who was held overnight at the police headquarters, was “granted police bail.”

Police arrested Anwar on Wednesday for questioning over allegations that he sodomized a 23-year-old male aide, the second time in a decade that such an accusation has threatened his political career.

Sivarasa Rasiah, an opposition lawmaker, said Anwar left police headquarters from the back entrance in a car with his wife while reporters were waiting in the front. Sivarasa said Anwar was told to report to police on Aug. 18.

“He spent the night in a lockup on a cold cement floor (which) aggravated his backache. He was in some pain this morning,” said Sivarasa.

The bail gives Anwar temporary respite, but he remains a suspect in the case even though he has not been formally charged. Still, it will help ease tensions and avert any immediate threat of street protests by Anwar’s supporters.

Anwar has denied the accusation as a “fabrication” and a “malicious” attack, but acknowledged that the unexpected allegation, made last month, has slowed his bid to recruit defectors from the ruling coalition and seize power by mid-September.

His three-party People’s Alliance coalition made spectacular gains in the March 8 elections, winning 82 seats in the 222-member Parliament, and is now 30 seats short of a simple majority.

The election result radically changed the political landscape of Malaysia, which has been ruled by the National Front since independence in 1957 in what critics say is a semi-authoritarian style.

Before the sodomy accusation emerged, Anwar was saying he could get enough ruling National Front coalition lawmakers to defect to form a government.

Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison in Malaysia.

The allegation revived images of a similar ordeal in 1998 when Anwar was fired as deputy prime minister and finance minister after being accused of sodomizing his family driver.

Anwar, who at the time was part of the ruling coalition, was subsequently convicted and jailed in what he says was a conspiracy by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to win a power struggle. Anwar’s downfall led to massive street protests by his supporters for weeks.

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

Anwar’s latest arrest occurred in dramatic circumstances.

He had agreed to voluntarily submit himself for questioning by police before a 2 p.m. deadline, but was arrested outside his house an hour earlier by a posse of policemen, some wearing ski masks.

“There was a lot of fear and intimidation. It was absolutely unnecessary,” said Nair, who witnessed the arrest.

Anwar was pulled out of his car as he returned home from an engagement and was driven to the police headquarters in a car with tinted windows.

As news of the arrest spread, scores of supporters, including opposition lawmakers and his wife, Azizah Ismail, gathered outside the police headquarters. After eight hours of interrogation, Anwar was taken to a hospital for a medical examination before being taken back to the police center. No DNA testing was done.

U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia James Keith said in a statement that the arrest of a prominent opposition figure “raises serious questions and concerns.”

Source : Associated Press

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2 Comments so far

  1. no imageoOFooi (Check me out!) on July 17th, 2008

    Is happy to heard that Anwar is freed now. Hope he is okay now.. 🙂

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  2. no imageImport from China (Check me out!) on July 20th, 2008

    Great info – keep up the great work.

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