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Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 15:31 UK

Anwar Ibrahim charged with sodomy

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Anwar Ibrahim faces the media

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been formally charged with sodomising a former male aide.

Appearing in court in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Anwar pleaded not guilty and called the accusation "malicious".

He says the allegations are politically motivated. The 60-year-old was jailed after facing similar accusations 10 years ago.

Since his release he has been active in politics but, until recently, was not able to officially run in elections.

Mr Anwar arrived at the main court in Kuala Lumpur amid chaotic scenes.

Dozens of supporters gathered as he emerged from his car - some shouting "reformasi", the slogan of the movement he founded.

Revival

In court, Mr Anwar was charged with "carnal intercourse against the order of nature".

Sodomy is illegal in Malaysia and he could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

After Thursday's hearing, he was released on bail.

Mr Anwar led the new opposition coalition to strong gains in a general election earlier this year. He says the claims are aimed at derailing his political revival.

The accusation is the same as the one he faced in 1998 - after he had been sacked as deputy prime minister.

He was convicted and served six years before the guilty verdict was overturned.

The BBC's Robin Brant in Kuala Lumpur says a recent opinion poll suggests that few Malaysians believe Mr Anwar committed the crime.

Mr Anwar has accused Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi of orchestrating a campaign against him - Mr Abdullah has denied this.

The charge was made just as Mr Anwar prepared to fight for a seat in parliament, after a ban on his seeking public office expired.

In a statement, US-based group Human Rights Watch called on the Malaysian government to withdraw the charges.

"Several instances of misconduct" during the investigation showed the charges were "aimed at preventing Anwar from leading a new government", the group said in a statement.



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