Page last updated at 07:14 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 08:14 UK

Malaysia's Anwar released on bail

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysian police have released opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on bail after he was arrested in connection with allegations of sodomy.

He was held for questioning over the allegations just hours before he had been due to make a police statement.

The former deputy prime minister, who could still face charges, has accused the government of orchestrating the allegations to discredit him.

"They have no case against me," Mr Anwar told reporters after his release.

The 60-year-old has been in a tense stand-off with police since a former male aide accused him of sodomy two weeks ago.

Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is a crime in Malaysia and is punishable by 20 years' imprisonment in the Muslim-majority country.

His arrest is likely to exacerbate the political tensions that have emerged since the opposition's unprecedented gains in the general election of March 2008.

Intense pressure

Speaking to reporters outside police headquarters, the former lawyer said he had left the building.

"He was driven off in his wife's car through the back exit," said Sivarasa Rasiah.

A supporter of Anwar Ibrahim holds up a placard, 16 July 2008
Anwar's supporters have not so far held large demonstrations

Mr Anwar's arrest will have been seen as provocative by Malaysian opposition groups, says the BBC's Robin Brant in Kuala Lumpur.

When he was arrested on similar charges 10 years ago, his supporters staged large demonstrations.

They had promised to do the same this time but, so far, no big protests have taken place, our correspondent says.

Only a handful of supporters gathered outside the police headquarters, despite calls by the opposition for a show of support.

Mr Anwar has given a statement to police but refused to provide a DNA sample, AFP news agency quoted his lawyers as saying.

Under the bail conditions, he is required to report back to police on 18 August.

Mr Anwar has said the allegations are part of a conspiracy to try to derail his efforts to bring down the government after his significant gains in the general election.

The sodomy accusations came only weeks after Mr Anwar said he was in a position to launch a challenge to the ruling coalition, with the help of government defectors.

The opposition leader made his claim at a time when Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is already under intense pressure to resign over poor election results and high fuel prices.

Mr Abdullah has said he will leave office in 2010, defying pressure to step down this December.

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