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Riot police on alert at Anwar trial

MALAYSIA'S FORMER deputy prime minister was bracing himself last night for a probable prison sentence while riot police began surrounding the square opposite the courthouse with trucks and water cannon.

The courtroom drama that has kept Malaysians glued to their televisions and newspapers for the past six months reaches its climax today with the judge's verdict on Anwar Ibrahim, the 51-year-old challenger to the Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamed.

Mr Anwar is accused of using his position to cover up allegations of sodomy and adultery. He has always denied the charges and claims that he is the victim of a political conspiracy. It is widely assumed that he will receive a prison sentence of at least two to four years, quashing any immediate plans to re-enter the political ring. Each of the four charges he faces carries a maximum penalty of 14 years and a pounds 3,500 fine but it only needs a sentence of one year or a fine of pounds 2,000 to disqualify Anwar from serving in parliament for the next five years.

Despite the prospect of a bleak future and a thwarted political career, Anwar was in "extremely high spirits, better than ever" yesterday, according to one of his lawyers.