July 16, 2008
Malaysia's Anwar likely to be charged: lawyer
The arrest was made as Mr Anwar was returning home from the administrative capital of Putrajaya. -- PHOTO: THE STAR
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KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIAN opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim is likely to be charged with sodomy, one of his lawyers said on Wednesday, as his supporters warned of massive street protests that could further alarm foreign investors.
Painting Mr Anwar's arrest as a political conspiracy, lawyer William Leong said the authorities had acted extraordinarily by arresting Anwar instead of allowing him to voluntarily assist police with their investigations.
'I would expect them to charge him, because they have taken extraordinary lengths,' Mr Leong said.
'If it had been an ordinary investigation, then they should have allowed him to go to the police headquarters as has been agreed and they should have allowed him to take his statement.'
The former deputy premier had agreed to meet investigators on Wednesday in connection with a sodomy complaint lodged by a former aide but was arrested before he went to the police.
Sodomy is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison in mainly Muslim Malaysia and the court may grant bail at its discretion.
Mr Anwar, who is leading a charge by the opposition to seize power by September, is fighting the accusation, in a replay of events a decade ago when he was jailed for sodomy and corruption.
Federal criminal investigation chief Bakri Zinin confirmed that Mr Anwar had been arrested, adding that he was helping in investigations in a sodomy case.
'We would like to give an assurance to all the relevant parties that Anwar Ibrahim is safe in police custody,' he said.
Mr Sankara Nair, another Anwar lawyer, said police could detain Mr Anwar for up to 24 hours, after which they would have to obtain a remand order from the court to allow further detention for up to 14 days without charging him.
The authorities sealed off roads to the police headquarters where Mr Anwar had been taken, while a water cannon was on standby, as the authorities braced for a possible repeat of 1998 protests when Mr Anwar's arrest brought tens of thousands onto the streets.
About 400 Anwar supporters outside the police headquarters carried banners demanding his release and the arrest of deputy premier Najib Razak, while police in riot gear warned the crowd to disperse or face arrest.
'Don't provoke the people ... why are police trying to test the people's patience?' Azmin Ali, a leader of Anwar's People Justice Party, said. 'I am giving a very strong reminder to the police, don't provoke us.' -- REUTERS
The arrest is likely to spark more tremors in financial markets, which have groaned under the weight of a protracted political drama that includes allegations of sex and murder against a senior government politician. 'Investors will probably shy away for a while until these things settle,' said Mr Wee Kim Hong, head of research at M&A Securities. 'I don't think anybody will want to commit to a long position for now.' Malaysia's ringgit fell to 3.2250 to the dollar from 3.2160 on Tuesday. Shares ended down 0.7 per cent. Mr Anwar was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 and later jailed for corruption and sodomy after leading street protests against then premier Mahathir Mohamad's government during the Asian financial crisis. The supreme court overturned the sodomy conviction six years later. Other opposition leaders rallied behind Mr Anwar. 'We will still work together very well,' said Nasharudin Mat Isa, a leader of Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS). 'This is going to even strengthen the coalition. This issue is going to create a new kind of movement among the public.' Anwar had earlier on Wednesday appealed for his supporters to remain calm if he was arrested. -- REUTERS