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Reuters/BBC: Malaysia's Anwar in court for corruption appeal
By Reuters, BBC

4/2/2002 1:21 pm Mon

[Rencana Reuters ini turut disiarkan di CNN di bawah tajuk CNN: Anwar begins final appeal - Editor] malaysia/1012786696nKLR148544.ASP

Malaysia's Anwar in court for corruption appeal

04 Feb 2002 01:38

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim arrived at the Federal Court in Kuala Lumpur on Monday to begin his final appeal against corruption convictions, his first public appearance in months.

In bright morning sunshine Anwar, who has a slipped disc in his back, declined the use of a wheelchair and walked slowly up the court steps, helped on either side by uniformed police officers.

A couple of dozen supporters shouted slogans as Anwar entered the court complex overlooking Merdeka Square, where some 100 police and riot control squad members watched from beside a water cannon.

"We are going to argue on political conspiracy, male fide (bad faith) and expunging of evidence favourable to us," Anwar's family lawyer Sankara Nair told Reuters outside the court.

Once next in line to lead the country, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sacked Anwar in September 1998, the day after imposing wide-ranging capital controls and pegging the ringgit currency to the dollar in response to the Asian financial crisis.

Anwar, who had been finance minister, was arrested later the same month and charged on counts of corruption and sodomy for which he was eventually sentenced to consecutive terms of six and nine years.

Mahathir's former deputy is appealing both charges, saying they were cooked up by his political enemies to thwart his progress.

The prime minister says the trials were fair, and has called Anwar immoral and unfit to rule.

Anwar's court appearance in 1998 carrying bruises and a black eye, and the subsequent trials, sparked outrage from opposition groups, foreign governments and human rights groups. The United States called him a political prisoner.

Federal Court judges at Monday's proceedings, which are due to run until Thursday, may rule immediately or reserve their decision for weeks or even months.

Even if Anwar were acquitted, he would remain in jail on the sodomy conviction.

Regardless of what happens, Anwar seems doomed to watch his rival and former mentor enjoy surging support in the wake of the September 11 air attacks on the United States.

The 76-year-old Mahathir has garnered support as the focus moved from Anwar, whose supporters include the religiously purist Parti Islam se-Malaysia, to the issue of whether Malaysia is threatened by Islamic militants. asia-pacific/newsid_1799000/1799191.stm

Sunday, 3 February, 2002, 23:49 GMT

Malaysia's Anwar in appeal court battle

By Kean Wong in Kuala Lumpur

In his first public appearance in months, Anwar Ibrahim is expected to be in court on Monday in a wheelchair wearing neck and back braces.

Suffering from a slipped disc and other ailments, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia is pursuing his final appeal against corruption convictions at the Federal Court.

The court is across the road from the square where in September 1998 he led the largest anti-government rally ever seen in Kuala Lumpur.

But unlike before, even Mr Anwar's loyal supporters are not expecting thousand-strong crowds to show up outside the courthouse this time.

According to one of Mr Anwar's team of lawyers, Sankara Nair, the proceedings this week are due to run for four days.

A minimum bench of three judges may deliver an immediate judgement or may reserve their decision for weeks afterwards.

'Mental torture'

Mr Sankara hopes the proceedings will go ahead this time after three previous postponements.

He said he shared Mr Anwar's "reserved optimism" that the High Court conviction in 1999 would be overturned.

"The man is in jail, he's not on bail, and therefore justice delayed is justice denied. And it's become a pattern - every time a trial comes up there's an increased level of harassment," said Mr Sankara.

"I've always felt it was a form of mental torture, technique, to rattle him and to affect his train of thought.

"This time around we have given 34 grounds of appeal and we're arguing that much evidence given in favour of Anwar was not considered. We've complained about the moving of the goalposts and how the original judge had expunged evidence. We're also raising the role of the attorney-general. These are the issues for us."

Opposition disarray

Three years after the controversial sacking and jailing of Mr Anwar, much has changed in Malaysian politics.

The reformasi (or reform) movement he inspired has dissipated, with several of its leaders detained without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for allegedly promoting insurrections against the state.

The once-dynamic alliance of opposition parties known as the Barisan Alternatif (BA) is in disarray.

The party forged in the heat of the reformasi movement - Keadilan or the National Justice Party - is still led by Mr Anwar's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, but senior defections have severely dented its impact and morale.

The momentum for political reform has also been unexpectedly reset by last year's 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr Anwar's long-time mentor and now nemesis, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has enjoyed a resurgence of approval since 11 September, adroitly exploiting Malaysian fears of a militant Islamic opposition and the global economic uncertainty.


The prime minister has partly won back a burgeoning middle-class that once flirted with the BA, as a landslide victory at a recent by-election suggests.

Dr Mahathir has also moved quickly against what he alleges is a broader militant Islamic conspiracy against his government.

The police had already detained without trial scores of opposition and Muslim activists before 11 September, accusing them of plotting the violent overthrow of the government.

Since the beginning of the American-led campaign against terrorism, the police have rounded up more Muslims, who are allegedly part of a shadowy militant group trained in weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The police have warned off a further 200 Malaysians, who are apparently under surveillance.

Several of them are allegedly part of south-east Asia's al-Qaeda terrorist network that was planning to bomb US interests in the region.

Unsurprisingly, with this development, Anwar and his plight have slipped out of domestic and international focus.

Pressure eased

While the United States maintains it continues to view Mr Anwar's jailing as politically-motivated, the pressure on Dr Mahathir's government has eased in the wake of the campaign against terrorism as security cooperation improves between the two governments.

But closer ties with Malaysia's biggest security and trading partner in the new climate may not be enough to overcome the deep divisions still apparent in the majority Malay-Muslim community, even though the prime minister has rebuilt support among the critical non-Muslim minorities of ethnic Chinese, Indian and indigenous communities.

Many Malays unhappy with Dr Mahathir's treatment of his former deputy support the Islamist PAS, the dominant opposition party.

However, the prime minister has been fond of taking calculated risks, which has led to growing speculation about a possible early general election next year.

He hopes to capitalise on the opposition's disarray and the electorate's fears of rising Islamic militancy in opposition ranks.

Though according to a leader in Dr Mahathir's party "the Anwar issue isn't centre-stage any more", few have been prepared to dismiss Mr Anwar's impact on electoral calculations for next year.

As a result, this week's appeal process will be instructive for many looking ahead.