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Tuesday, March 9, 1999 Published at 10:24 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Anwar witness accuses minister

Mr Anwar's wife and daughter with supporters outside the court building

A witness at the trial of the former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has accused a government minister of being behind the letter which led to Mr Anwar's downfall.

Malaysia Crisis Section
Azmin Ali, then Mr Anwar's former private secretary, told the court that his sister, Ummi Hafilda Ali, later told him she had been paid money to send the letter to Prime Minister Mahathir in her name.

Azmin Ali said she had told him the letter had been drafted by Megat Junid Megat Ayob, the domestic trade minister. It was sent in August 1997.

Simon Ingram in Kuala Lumpur: Testimony strengthens Anwar's contention that he was victim of a political conspiracy
The letter accused Mr Anwar of having had an affair with Azmin Ali's wife, as well as having had sex with several men.

These accusations became central to the case against the former deputy prime minister.

The letter led to Mr Anwar's sacking last September, and later to charges of illegal sex acts, and of abusing his office to try and prevent an investigation into his behaviour.

'Political conspiracy'

"Ummi stressed that she didn't write the letter," Mr Azmin told the court.

"I advised her not to be embroiled in the political conspiracy, but she replied that it was too late for her to get out because she had committed herself and some money was paid to her."

He said his sister had named Megat Junid Megat Ayob as the "chief conspirator" behind the letter.

Judge Augustine Paul ruled that the testimony relating to the allegation Ummi had received money was irrelevant, but did not strike it from the court record. Mr Azmin's other testimony was allowed to stand.

Mr Anwar, who was arrested last September, has always insisted that the charges were part of a plot by the Mahatir government, which now sees him as a political rival.

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