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Tuesday, November 10, 1998 Published at 21:43 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Police "pressured Anwar accusers"

Anwar supporters protested on Saturday

A senior police officer has said he coerced two key witnesses in the sex and corruption trial of Malaysia's former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim into retracting their allegations.

Malaysia Crisis Section
Abdul Aziz Husin of the police Special Branch said officers exerted "intense mental pressure" on the two accusers.

The latest evidence focused on statements by Ummi Hafilda and Azizan Abu Bakar.

Ms Ummi alleged Mr Anwar had sex with her brother's wife. Ms Ummi's brother is Mr Anwar's personal secretary.

[ image: Anwar's six-year-old daughter shows her support]
Anwar's six-year-old daughter shows her support
The court also considered statements by Mr Azizan, who served as Mr Anwar's driver, and claimed the defendant committed sodomy with him.

Both later retracted their allegations, in what prosecutors claim was a deliberate cover-up attempt by Mr Anwar while he was still in power.

Abdul Aziz Husin said Ms Ummi was interrogated "from midnight to morning" and threatened with jail under a law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.

"These combined approaches subjected her to intense mental pressures until she lost the will to resist and succumbed to the interrogation team," Mr Abdul Aziz told Kuala Lumpur's High Court.

Similar techniques were used on Mr Azizan, he said.

Mr Anwar, who was sacked by the Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed in September, faces 10 charges of abuse of power and illegal sexual activity.

The current trial hinges on charges that Mr Anwar used his office to interfere with the police investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct.

Mystery over 'missing conspiracy document'

Last week, the outgoing Special Branch chief, Mohamad Said Awang, said under cross-examination that his investigations had cleared Mr Anwar of sexual misconduct and found evidence of a conspiracy against him.

[ image: Pro-government newspapers have been burned]
Pro-government newspapers have been burned
Defence lawyers say missing documents implicate at least two government ministers in a 1997 plot to drive Mr Anwar from office through allegations of sexual misconduct.

They asked Mr Said to produce a report naming members of Dr Mahathir's government.

Mr Said, who had earlier admitted he would lie in court if told to by his superiors, said he was not certain if he had written such a document.

Malaysian and foreign lawyers observing the trial say Mr Said's evidence severely undermines the credibility of someone intended as a key prosecution witness.

'Dr Mahathir is drunk with power'

In an interview with Time magazine released on Sunday, Mr Anwar said the charges against him were a "vile character assassination" formulated to prevent him becoming prime minister.

In answers smuggled out of prison Mr Anwar said he believed the prime minister was "drunk with power".

Dr Mahathir sacked Mr Anwar following disagreements on the regional economic crisis and described him as "morally unfit" to lead the country.

The trial has become the focal point of political dissent in Malaysia with his supporters mounting anti-government street demonstrations.

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