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A badly bruised Anwar Ibrahim. ASSOCIATED PRESS

That Sinking Feeling
Anwar, bruised and battered, pleads not guilty to corruption, sexual misconduct charges

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad runs a tight ship. Step out of line and you'll suffer the consequences. Just ask his sacked deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. Battered and bruised, Anwar appeared in court Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to nine counts of corruption and sexual misconduct. He also pleaded not guilty Wednesday to an additional charge of sodomy. The government, for its part, ordered an investigation into the alleged beating. The country's official news agency, though, quoted the Prime Minister as saying that Anwar's injuries could have been self-inflicted. Regardless, says TIME correspondent Tim Larimer, the beating "is a bit of a puzzle. If you're cynical it says the government is trying to send a message that 'if this can happen to the Deputy Prime Minister then it can happen to you. Stay off the streets.'" Thus far, the message seems to have hit home. "People are stunned and angry, but it may not be enough to get the protests going again. They know what the police are capable of," says Larimer.

Protests, though, aren't out of the question. "It may take time to filter down, and there's been some talk about unrest outside the capital," says Larimer. The alleged abuse, not surprisingly, drew the attention of the international community. But the Prime Minister isn't likely to flinch. "Mahathir has shown he doesn't care what the world thinks, that he knows best," says Larimer. This, however, could change the situation for Asia's longest-serving leader. Investors, for example, might continue to shy away if they sense further instability, eroding support for the government or, worse, the makings of another Indonesia. Says Larimer: "It'll be a wake up call to the world about what kind of government this is. It's supposedly a democracy, there are elections. But people might realize Malaysia isn't an open society." And Malaysians might realize their ship is sinking.

R E L A T E D   S T O R I E S :

REUTERS NEWSWIRE Malaysia's Anwar says police beat him
DR. M STRIKES BACK Mahathir jails former duputy Anwar Ibrahim
INTERVIEW Anwar's wife picks up the mantle
BOTTOM LINE The economy will decide Mahathir's fate
POLL Can Wan Azizah Ismail sustain her husband's reform movement?
POLL Should Anwar have been arrested as a threat to national security?
POLL Will the currency controls help Malaysia?

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