Anwar Ibrahim denied bail

Former Malaysian deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim has been refused bail by the country's highest court in a politically charged process which drew muted protests from his supporters.

    Anwar maintains the charges against him were fabricated

    The Federal Court rejected Anwar's bail application on Saturday pending a decision on his appeal against a sodomy conviction, saying it was not empowered by law to grant a stay of execution in criminal cases.
     
    "We therefore dismiss the application," Judge Abd al-Hamid Muhammad said.

    Anwar is awaiting a decision on his appeal against a sodomy conviction for which he is serving nine years in prison.

    Anwar's sacking and imprisonment in 1998 on abuse of power and sodomy charges, after falling out with then Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad, sparked violent protests involving tens of thousands of followers.

    But support for the former rising star of the ruling Malay party has eroded over the years. On Saturday, about 50 followers gathered in the court compound, shouting "reformasi" and "arrest Mahathir" as riot police looked on.
     
    Wearing a neck and back brace for a spinal injury he says was made worse by a police beating, Anwar said he was disappointed with the decision, but added "we will continue the struggle for democracy and rule of law."

    'Reformasi'

    Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, chief of Parti Keadilan which sprang out of the "reformasi" reform movement, said the court's decision had been a "foregone conclusion".

    Supporters of Anwar, a political
    detainee, demand his release

    "Even with a mandate of 90% of seats in Parliament, they don't have the confidence to free Anwar," she said, referring to Prime Minister Abd Allah Ahmad Badawi's government.

    "What danger does an ailing ex-deputy PM pose against a strongly entrenched government?"

    A representative from the International Commission of Jurists who attended the trial said the judicial process appeared fair but would ultimately be judged by the court's final decision.

    Conspiracy

    "The international community has a clear perception that the original trial was patently unfair and contained many errors of law," said Mark Trowell.

    "What danger does an ailing ex-deputy PM pose against a strongly entrenched government?"

    Wan Azizah Ismail,
    wife of Anwar Ibrahim

    "That perception can only be overcome by the court acting objectively and dealing with the appeal on its merits."

    Anwar alleges the charges against him were fabricated and used to crush anti-government protests and a leadership challenge he had mounted against Mahathir, who fired him in 1998 after the two had a falling out. Mahathir retired last year after 22 years as prime minister.

    The government denies a conspiracy, although international rights groups, the United States and other observers consider Anwar to be a political prisoner.

    If the judges reject the sodomy appeal, Anwar's only hope of a release before the sentence expires is if Prime Minister Badawi advises the king to grant him a pardon.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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