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World - Asia/Pacific

Ousted Malaysian deputy premier pleads innocent to charges

Click here to go to CNN interactive Online source article
Malaysian riot police beat demonstrators as they break up a rally for Anwar Ibrahim in Kuala Lumpur on Monday Click here to go to CNN interactive Online source article
September 29, 1998
Web posted at: 5:28 a.m. EDT (0928 GMT)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia's ousted deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, pleaded innocent Tuesday to nine charges of corruption and illegal sex acts and claimed he was beaten severely in detention.

Anwar, who, according to a lawyer, had visible bruises from police violence, made the plea after being brought to a courthouse early in the morning for the beginning of what could be a landmark legal case in this Southeast Asian nation.

A defense lawyer said the 51-year-old politician, who is leading a campaign against Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's 17-year rule, had asked the court for an independent medical examination.

CNN's Kevin Dunn reports on the events leading up to Tuesday's court appearance
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Anwar claims he was beaten black and blue

Anwar replied, "Not guilty, I claim trial," as each charge was read out before Judge Hasnah Hashim.

Wearing brown trousers and a checked shirt, Anwar smiled as he entered the courtroom. He then embraced his wife, Azizah Ismail, two of his daughters, and his father.

Anwar pointed to large bruises above his left eye and on his neck and rolled up his shirtsleeves to show his family the scars of police beatings on the first night of his custody, witnesses in the courtroom said.

"I was boxed very hard on the left temple and right part of my head," Anwar told the court, according to lawyer Pawancheek Marican. Anwar said he was still handcuffed and blindfolded when he was hit.

Asked by someone how long he could withstand police violence, Anwar replied: "As long as it takes."

He appeared pleased when his wife showed him copies of international newsmagazines that had featured cover stories on his movement.

Police surround courthouse

Anwar's case was transferred from the lower sessions court to the High Court at the prosecutor's request. His bail plea was also referred to the higher court.

Anwar was led into the Jalan Raja Court 15 minutes before it was scheduled to open and taken into a magistrate's courtroom after a nearly three-hour wait in the court's judicial lockup.

Anwar's wife, Azizah Ismail, is mobbed by reporters at her husband's court appearance Tuesday  

Anwar, arrested on Sept. 20, faces nine counts of corruption and "unnatural" sex acts. The punishment for each count could be several years imprisonment.

A 10th charge will be brought against him in another court in a Kuala Lumpur suburb Wednesday, said a statement by the Attorney-General's office.

Reporters jammed the narrow courthouse corridor for a glimpse of Anwar, but the jailed leader was sneaked into the courtroom through a back door. Only a few of the reporters could get inside the small courtroom.

Outside, hundreds of riot policemen threw a ring around the colonial courthouse building to prevent his supporters from thronging the area for a glimpse of their leader, not seen since his arrest.

At that time, Anwar was marched off by armed police under the harsh Internal Security Act, which allows for imprisonment without trial.

The start of legal proceedings on the corruption and homosexuality charges was independent of Anwar's detention under the ISA, the government's law office said.

After he was fired Sept. 2 by the prime minister, Anwar had led a campaign against his former boss, saying Malaysia needed a more liberal and clean government.

Anwar denies the charges

Since his arrest, Kuala Lumpur has been rocked by street protests demanding his release and Mahathir's resignation.

On Monday, riot police chased a few thousand pro-reform activists through the neon-lit streets of downtown Kuala Lumpur as protesters defied warnings and gathered for a second consecutive week near the courthouse.

Chanting "Reformasi," or "Reforms," the demonstrators marched from the courthouse, carrying banners that said, "Free Anwar."

At least 16 of Anwar's associates have been held under the ISA. Nearly 300 people were detained in the series of protests. Many of them have since been released.

Anwar has denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

The Attorney-General's office said all the charges against Anwar had been based on a police investigation into accusations contained in a book titled "50 reasons why Anwar cannot become PM."

The book was widely distributed at this year's annual convention of the governing United Malays National Organization party, where Anwar's allies had campaigned for political reforms.

Mahathir has denied that a challenge to his leadership forced him to fire Anwar, a man he had until last year described as his successor. He said Anwar's sexual activities were intolerable.

"Anwar's wish was for me to step down so that he would get away without being tried," Mahathir said Tuesday in Parliament, which met as Anwar was being arraigned in court.

Copyright 1998   The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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