Battered Anwar in court at last

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The Independent Online
IN A GRAVE blow to the credibility of the Malaysian government, Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister, appeared in court yesterday bearing visible injuries from a severe beating up at the hands of the police.

It was the first time that Mr Anwar had been seen by his family or his lawyers since his arrest 10 days ago under Malaysia's Internal Security Act - a draconian law condemned by human rights organisations. It allows for indefinite incarceration incommunicado and without trial.

Throughout his detention, senior police officers as well as Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's prime minister, insisted that he would receive a fair trial and that he was being treated properly while in custody.

In an overflowing court in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Mr Anwar said that he feared for his life after being beaten into semi-consciousness, held in solitary confinement and denied medical treatment for his injuries.

Two of Mr Anwar's daughters wept openly in the court when they saw their father. His eye and arms were visibly bruised from the attack carried out in Bukit Aman central police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

In a statement read out to the court, he described being handcuffed and blindfolded. "I was asked to stand up, and I was boxed very hard on the left temple and the right part of my head," he said. "I was slapped very hard, left and right, until blood seeped from my nose and my lip was split."

Later he fell into unconsciousness and suffered temporary paralysis in his arm. Despite being unable to open his left eye or to walk steadily, he was denied medical treatment for five days. "Look at the condition of my eye after 10 days," Mr Anwar told the court. "You can imagine why they refused to see me [in court] earlier."

Malaysian police have been accused of using excessive force in the past, but the public exposure of such blatant brutality against a man who was one of Malaysia's most powerful and respected figures until a month ago will be a grave embarrassment to Dr Mahathir.

Since sacking Mr Anwar as deputy prime minister and finance minister, he has faced an unprecedented backlash with almost daily rallies of demonstrators calling for his resignation, and for political and legal reform.

His justification for the sacking was that his deputy was a homosexual, unfit to become prime minister of a Muslim country such as Malaysia. Mr Anwar pleaded not guilty to five charges of corruption and to four of sodomy, allegations that are widely regarded as fabricated.

Yesterday his former speech writer and his adopted brother, who had claimed to have been sodomised by the former deputy prime minister in his official residence, were reported to have withdrawn their confessions on the ground that they were coerced. Mr Anwar's wife, Azizah Ismail, who has taken over the leadership of his so-called "reform movement", was threatened with arrest after suggesting that he might be injected with the Aids virus deliberately to substantiate allegations of promiscuity. "I am really so worried about him," she said after accompanying an independent doctor to examine her husband after his court appearance.

"When I was told of the possibility of injections, I felt very fearful and my fears are not unfounded."

Malaysia's official leader of the opposition, Lim Kit Siang of the Democratic Action Party, said that he would ask Dr Mahathir for "a full explanation as to why the former deputy prime minister was brutally attacked like a common criminal while in the custody of the police".

The reform movement initiated by Mr Anwar has gained broad support from Malaysian opposition parties and human rights organisations. On Sunday, 18 of them announced the formation of the Coalition for People's Democracy.

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