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Malaysia Anwar sees lawyers as students protest
08:41 a.m. Oct 09, 1998 Eastern

By K. Baranee Krishnaan

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Lawyers for sacked Malaysian minister Anwar Ibrahim met him in his police cell on Friday to prepare his defence against charges of sodomy and corruption as students staged a protest in his support.

Three of Anwar's lawyers held a late afternoon meeting with him at the Bukit Aman federal police headquarters, their first since his arrest last month and indictment in court later.

``This is the very first time we are seeing him outside of the court,'' said Pawancheek Marican, a spokesman for the lawyers.

Pawancheek said the lawyers spoke to Anwar for about 1- hours to get his instructions to prepare their case.

They also spoke to prosecutor Gani Patail to fix a schedule for future visits, he said.

``At this stage, I cannot give details about the meeting or when the counsels can see him again,'' Pawancheek said.

He said Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and six children, were allowed to visit him late on Thursday after she complained that the police were denying him access to both his family and lawyers.

Some 300 students from the Universiti Malaya in the heart of the capital staged a protest on Friday against Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, calling him to step down.

The protest, in support of Anwar, took place in clear defiance of a government ban on political rallies and students' participation in political affairs.

There were no incidents during the 25-minute demonstration, which took place after the weekly congregational prayers for Moslems, witnesses said.

They said the students, who included women, carried placards denouncing the 17-year rule of Mahathir and demanded justice for Anwar.

``Mahathir -- Step Down,'' ``Dissolve Parliament, Call for Elections'' were among the messages on the placards carried by the protesters, who shouted ``Allahu Akhbar'' (God is Greatest).

The students, who marched along a road that led from the mosque just outside the university, also demanded for the resignation of national police chief, Rahim Noor.

About 50 policemen stood by and watched the protest, taking pictures of the students.

A police official told Reuters he did not see the need to break up the demonstration. ``They left without any incident,'' he said.

Anwar was sacked by Mahathir early last month on grounds of immorality and later indicted on 10 counts of sodomy and corruption.

The former minister has denied all the charges and is being held under the Internal Security Act, which permits indefinite detention without trial.

His arrest has sparked a wave of street protests which the police have managed to control.


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Reuters News Service