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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Malaysia's Anwar called 'traitor'
Hishamuddin Hussein, youth chief of the ruling United Malays National Organisation
Mr Hussein said Mr Anwar should not be allowed to rejoin Umno
Members of Malaysia's largest political party have labelled former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim a "traitor".

The head of the youth wing of the United Malays National Organisation ( Umno) ruled out the possibility of Mr Anwar being allowed back into the fold.

The comments came on the first day of Umno's annual party congress, chaired by new Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

The run-up to the meeting was overshadowed by Mr Anwar's unexpected release from jail earlier this month.

He was imprisoned for six years after being sacked by then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, and jailed for corruption and sodomy.

The latter charge was later overturned on appeal.

Hishamuddin Hussein, leader of the Umno youth wing, did not mention Mr Anwar by name, but said the party's younger members would not allow the "return of those who have been a traitor to the struggle of the party".

Anwar Ibrahim, German hospital, 15/09/2004
Anwar Ibrahim is recovering from back surgery in Germany
"We should not forget that this traitor once destroyed our unity, hurt our image and the economy through demonstrations and street violence," he said.

Delegates applauded Mr Hussein's speech, while thousands of ordinary party members chanted "Yes! Yes!" as they watched from outside the meeting hall.

Abdullah Saad, another Umno youth leader, said: "It is a wise decision not to accept Anwar. He is a traitor. He ruined the economy and shamed the Malay race."

"We must close our doors to him," he told the French news agency AFP.

Mr Hussein also derided Mr Anwar for his decision to leave Umno - which has headed the ruling coalition since Malaysia achieved independence from Britain in 1957.

Mr Anwar left Umno after he was sacked by Mr Mahathir. With his wife, he formed the National Justice Party (Keadilan), which was virtually wiped out in the general election this March when it won only a single seat.

"He declared war on us when he left and formed Keadilan," Mr Hussein said.

Political conspiracy

Mr Anwar, who is currently in Germany recuperating from back surgery, was freed earlier this month after six years in jail on charges of corruption and sodomy.

He says the charges against him were fabricated as part of a political conspiracy to prevent him from challenging Mr Mahathir for the leadership.

His conviction for sodomy was overturned when he was freed, but the charge of corruption still stands and as a convicted criminal he is not allowed to run for any elected post until 2008.

Nevertheless, there has been much speculation about whether the former deputy leader will want to return to politics now he is no longer behind bars.

He has already said he does not want to rejoin Umno, and has promised to work with the opposition to advance the reform agenda.

But Mr Anwar's release has unsettled some factions of the ruling coalition, and the charismatic politician still maintains a degree of support in Umno.

"Nobody deserves to be punished forever," one delegate told the Associated Press news agency on the condition of anonymity.

"He initiated a lot of reforms in Umno, although he also made mistakes."

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02 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim set free
02 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific

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