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Tuesday, 14 March, 2000, 11:04 GMT
Police chief guilty of Anwar assault

Abdul Rahim Noor admitted lesser assault charge
By Frances Harrison in Kuala Lumpur

The former Malaysian police chief, Abdul Rahim Noor, has been convicted of assaulting the ex-Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, on the night he was first detained in 1998.

Abdul Rahim pleaded guilty after the prosecution dropped a more serious charge of causing grievous bodily harm.

The attack left Mr Anwar with a black eye, shown on pictures flashed around the world as he appeared briefly in public on his way to a court hearing.

Mr Noor is expected to be sentenced on Wednesday and could face up to a year in prison.

'Embarrassment'

His lawyers told a courtroom packed with his former police colleagues that their client had decided to plead guilty to a lesser charge to save the government the embarrassment of a trial.

Defence lawyers described Mr Rahim as a man who always placed his country before himself, a man who had made an astounding and exceptional contribution to the nation during his 30-year career in the police.

The incident in which Mr Rahim, Malaysia's top policeman, physically assaulted a blindfolded and handcuffed Anwar Ibrahim, detained in a police cell, was described by Rahim Noor's lawyers as a moment of weakness caused by extreme stress.

According to the lawyers, their client lost his cool in the midst of trying to contain pro-Anwar demonstrations which threatened public order and racial harmony.

'Humiliation'

Defence lawyers argued that Mr Rahim should not be subjected to more humiliation by being put behind bars.

But the prosecution argued that Mr Rahim should indeed be given a jail sentence because he had abused his position as police chief and must have known that by assaulting Anwar Ibrahim in custody, he would only enrage the politician's supporters even more.

The judge has already declared Mr Rahim guilty as charged but it's not yet clear whether he intends to sentence him to jail or just impose a fine.

A lawyer observing the proceedings on behalf of Mr Anwar said it was unfair for the prosecution to reduce the charge without giving reasons.

If Mr Rahim ends up avoiding jail because of the reduced charge, it is likely there will be angry protests by human rights groups both in Malaysia and internationally.

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See also:

18 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysian PM gagged
10 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
'Anwar poisoned'
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