Malaysia’s Anwar Again Accused of Sodomy

Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister and finance minister now leading Malaysia’s resurgent opposition coalition, is once again in a fight for his political life after being charged with new sexual perversion allegations.

The Federal Criminal Investigation Department Director, Bakri Zinin, told reporters Sunday that an aide to Anwar, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who turns 23 next week, had lodged a police report Saturday evening in a police kiosk in Kuala Lumpur Hospital, accusing Anwar, 60, of forcibly sodomising him Thursday in an apartment in Damansara Heights, a posh neighborhood just minutes away from Parliament.

"The report is made to allow me to defend myself and seek justice. I am also worried for my and my family's safety if this news is widely spread among the public," Saiful said in the handwritten police report.

Bakri also confirmed Saiful has been hospitalized and is undergoing medical examination. Ismail Omar, the deputy police chief, said Anwar would not be arrested “at the moment.” He told Agence France Press that “we will investigate this report first. We will look into it and carry out the necessary steps before issuing any warrant of arrest.”

The charges against Anwar are the latest in an atmosphere of growing vituperation in Malaysia as the opposition is threatening to derail the 50-year reign of the ruling national coalition of ethnic political parties. Parti Keadilan Rakyat, the party Anwar leads, said late Saturday in a text message that police had forced Saiful to confess and lodge the report.

Observers in Kuala Lumpur say another sodomy allegation will probably not destroy Anwar politically. After all, such charges failed to do so in 1998 and instead sparked the Reformasi movement, which brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets of Kuala Lumpur and to political rallies throughout the country.

"It's all a political ploy to discredit Anwar and to derail his plans to form a federal government on September 16," Stanley Koh, the former head of research and planning of the Malaysian Chinese Association, the second largest ethnic party in the Barisan Nasional, (the ruling coalition) told Asia Sentinel by phone. "Right now things are still hazy but not many people believe it (the sodomy allegations). It's just politics."

As news spread over the allegations, Anwar sought refuge in the Turkish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur after receiving death threats. He charged that the report was politically motivated. He was previously arrested in 1998 and jailed in 1999 on sexual perversion charges. He ultimately spent six years in prison before the charges were reversed by the courts after the current prime minister, Ahmad Abdullah Badawi, succeeded Mahathir Mohamad, with whom Anwar was feuding. He was badly beaten repeatedly while in prison.

The current charges carry a potential 20-year sentence.

"The police report lodged against me earlier today is a complete fabrication,” Anwar said in a prepared statement at 1:20 am Sunday. “I believe we are witnessing a repeat of the methods used against me in 1998 when false allegations were made under duress. This is clearly a desperate attempt by the Barisan Nasional regime to arrest the movement of the Malaysian people towards freedom, democracy and justice."

The report, he said, was trumped up in an effort to attack him “in retaliation for evidence I have recently obtained implicating IGP (inspector-general of police) Musa Hassan and the AG (attorney-general) Gani Patail in misconduct including fabrication of evidence in the cases launched against me in 1998-1999. This vile attack will not prevent me from releasing this dossier to the public," he continued.

Certainly, the latest allegations bring back memories of the reform movement launched by Anwar in 1998, when he was sacked as deputy prime minister and finance minister by Mahathir. As with the events a decade ago, Anwar has claimed that witnesses gave their statements under duress. Hence the latest charges are viewed with suspicion, especially since the judiciary has been severely discredited by the so-called Lingamgate scandal, which exposed corruption and judge fixing at the highest levels.

Prime Minister Badawi said the Barisan-led government had no hand in the report.

"We are not (involved),” Badawi told local local media. “UMNO (the United Malays National Organisation, the largest party, which leads the Barisan) and Barisan Nasional did not plan to trouble, disturb or accuse him,” he told local media.

In the March 8 general election, Pakatan Rakyat, or People's Alliance, the opposition coalition that Anwar helms, denied the Barisan Nasional the two-thirds parliamentary majority that it has held for five decades since independence. Pakatan also gained control of five states, including Selangor which contributes about 30 percent of the country's annual gross domestic product (GDP), and the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur.