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Wednesday, March 31, 1999 Published at 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

'Anwar's only crime was courage'

Anwar Ibrahim: Verdict expected within a week

Defence lawyers for the sacked Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, have concluded their case, saying Mr Anwar's only crime was to stand up against powerful politicians.

Malaysia Crisis Section
Mr Anwar is being tried on four counts of corruption in the Kuala Lumpur Supreme Court.

The former deputy, dismissed last year by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, is accused of abusing his office, by trying to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct which had been made against him.

"Whether we like it or not, this case smacks of politics," defence counsel Gurbachan Singh told the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

"The only crime he may have committed is because he was courageous enough... to stand up against powerful politicians."

'No politics'

Judge Augustine Paul in turn accused the defendants of dragging politics into the trial.

"If you want to make a speech like this, you should go out there," the judge said, pointing towards the street.

"Don't turn this into a political forum."

Earlier in the trial, Judge Paul ruled that the defence must not invoke allegations that Mr Anwar was the victim of a political conspiracy.

The former deputy prime minister has maintained from the beginning of the trial that the charges against him were set up by his political enemies - including the prime minister.

'Ulterior motive'

The defence used the closing arguments to question the reliability of the prosecution witnesses.

Mr Singh said Ummi Hafilda Ali, who says that her sister-in-law had an affair with Mr Anwar, had an "ulterior motive" when she made this accusation against him.

He also said that Azizan Abu Bakar, the former employee of the Anwar family who accused Mr Anwar of sodomy, was an unreliable witness.

The police who arrested Mr Anwar were accused by the defence of "hatred and malice" towards him.

Verdict due in April

Judge Paul is due to deliver a verdict on 6 April on the four charges of corruption.

A further charge of corruption and five charges of illegal sexual behaviour are still pending against Mr Anwar.

Mr Anwar was dismissed from his post as deputy prime minister and finance minister last September.

He was subsequently arrested for leading a large demonstration in Kuala Lumpur in which protestors demanded that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resign.





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