Police chief admits Anwar trial could be conspiracy

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IN A BIZARRE own goal by the Malaysian police, the head of the country's Special Branch conceded in court yesterday that criminal charges against the deposed deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, may be a conspiracy by rival politicians.

There were gasps of amazement from the public gallery of the Kuala Lumpur High Court as Mohamed Said Awang agreed he would be prepared to break the law and lie under oath if he was asked to do so by the Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad.

Mr Anwar was sacked by Mr Mahathir two months ago. Three weeks later he was charged with multiple counts of sodomy and corruption. He has pleaded not guilty.

On Wednesday, Mr Mohamed testified on behalf of the prosecution, claiming to have followed Mr Anwar's instructions and ordered the intimidation of witnesses to his crimes. Yesterday, under cross-examination by the defendant's lawyers, he admitted to believing the charges were politically motivated. He also acknowledged that he might lie if instructed to do so by "someone higher than the deputy prime minister".

"I put it to you that since the allegations against him were false and baseless, it was perfectly legitimate for him to get retractions of those false and baseless allegations," Christopher Fernando, one of Mr Anwar's lawyers, suggested to Mr Mohamed. "Yes," the policeman responded.

As the first witness called by the prosecution, Mr Mohamed was supposed to support its case that Mr Anwar, deputy prime minister and finance minister until his sudden sacking, was a promiscuous bisexual adulterer who used his position to suppress evidence of his crimes. But his testimony has been undermined by admissions that Malaysian police routinely intimidate witnesses, lie under oath and yield to the wishes of politicians.

Yesterday began with a heated exchange when Mr Mohamed accused the defence lawyers of having "twisted" his previous evidence. But the most remarkable admission came during cross-examination by Mr Fernando.

"If someone higher than the deputy prime minister were to instruct you to come and lie to the court here, would you do it?" Mr Fernando asked. Mr Mohamed answered: "Depends on the situation." When pressed, he said, "I may or I may not."

He was questioned about a police report that was sent to Mr Mahathir in August 1997, and was asked whether "the report you gave to the Prime Minister contained a statement from you that the allegations were politically motivated?" He replied, "I don't deny it," and also conceded that Daim Zainuddin, a rival of Mr Anwar and a close aide to Mr Mahathir, may have been involved in cooking up the sodomy allegations.