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Friday, September 10, 1999 Published at 05:24 GMT 06:24 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

'Anwar poisoned'

The jailed ex-deputy PM is in hospital

Malaysia's former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has been taken to hospital with what his lawyers said was arsenic poisoning.

Mr Anwar is currently on trial in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on charges of sodomy.

Malaysia Crisis Section
The case was adjourned after Mr Anwar's defence counsel told the court that a test conducted in Australia had found arsenic traces in his urine.

"We have obtained a pathologist's report from Melbourne which certifies that there is an excessive level of arsenic poison in Anwar Ibrahim's urine sample," defence lawyer Karpal Singh told the court.

BBC Malaysia Correspondent Frances Harrison: "Mr Anwar's wife fears for his life"
Mr Anwar's wife, Dr Wan Azizah, says she is very frightened for his life.

She says the family secretly smuggled a urine sample out of jail last month and sent it to Melbourne, Australia, for testing.

According to Dr Wan Azizah, the tests showed Anwar Ibrahim had 77 times the normal levels of arsenic in his urine.

High Court Judge Arifin Jaka adjourned the trial and ordered Mr Anwar to be taken to hospital.

"I'm granting a postponement immediately, until such time that a doctor certifies Mr Anwar is fit to attend court," the judge said.

An angry exchange ensued when the Attorney General, Mohtar Abdullah, implied that Mr Anwar's own family could be poisoning him.

The attorney general said he had seen Mr Anwar eat food brought into the courtroom from outside. He also said the jailed man had broken regulations by mixing freely with prison inmates.

An enraged Mr Anwar banged his fist on the dock and shouted: "I'm talking about being poisoned while the attorney general is talking about prison regulations!"

Hairloss but no pain

[ image: Anwar supporters marked the anniversary of his sacking]
Anwar supporters marked the anniversary of his sacking
Asked how he was feeling, Mr Anwar said earlier he was "certainly not my usual self", adding that he was suffering from hair loss.

But he said he was generally all right and not feeling any pain.

Asked by the judge if he was worried, Mr Anwar said: "Of course. When I received the report, I was quite disturbed."

The BBC Malaysia Correspondent, Frances Harrison, says arsenic poisoning is a long-term process.

Sodomy and corruption charges

Mr Anwar was sacked by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in September 1998.

After leading thousands of anti-government protesters through the capital, he was arrested later that month and charged with corruption and sodomy.

He had been widely regarded as an eventual successor to Prime Minister Mahathir.

In April, Mr Anwar was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to six years in jail.

After Mr Anwar was sacked, Malaysian newspapers published allegations that he had committed sodomy - a crime in Malaysia - and other sexual offences.

Last September, Mr Anwar's adopted brother Sukma Darmawan and speechwriter Munawar Anees pleaded guilty in a court to being sodomised by Anwar.

But the two men, each sentenced to six months in jail for the alleged sodomy, later changed their pleas, saying police coerced them into making the admissions.

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