Vincent Thian/AP
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim talks to media as he leaves the Turkish Embassy. (AP)

Malaysian Opposition Leader Takes Refuge in Turkish Embassy amid Sodomy Charges

July 01, 2008 08:48 AM
by Anne Szustek
An aide to Anwar Ibrahim, head of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat, accused the politician of sexual misconduct. Supporters suspect the charges are false and politically motivated.

30-Second Summary

Anwar left the Turkish embassy Monday evening after “receiving assurances of [his] safety,” he told Reuters.

A 23-year-old aide charged Anwar with sodomy—an echo of accusations made against the politician 10 years ago while he was deputy prime minister. He was ousted from that post in 1998 and jailed for sodomy and corruption. He was acquitted six years later. Some suspect he was singled out for leading protests against then-Malaysian President Mahathir Mohamad.

In a political climate colored by Islamist tension and elections in March that saw the ruling Barisan Nasional party nearly lose power for the first time during the country’s independence, Anwar and his supporters suspect operatives are working to trump up similar allegations.

“How credible is it that this healthy young man of 23 was sodomized against his will … by a 60-year-old man with a bad back problem?” asks one user on news site and blog Malaysiakini.

But Alwi Che Ahmad, a spokesman for majority group UMNO, of which BN is part, said, “Nobody from UMNO has anything to gain from trying to fabricate [accusations against] Anwar.”

A writer posting on Anwar’s official blog likened his plight to other opposition leaders forced to take shelter—Zimbabwe presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, who holed up at a Dutch embassy last week, and Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest.

“The Malaysian drama can only weather on with these parallels in mind. Neither of which are complimentary to Malaysia, to say the least,” read the post.

Malaysia Today surmises that Anwar selected the Turkish embassy in particular because of that country’s current Islamist-leaning government. “This may lead to a standoff between” the two traditionally friendly countries, however.

Headline Links: Malaysian opposition leader takes shelter in, leaves Turkish embassy

Background: ‘Malaysia’s Election Exposes Religious Friction’

Reactions: ‘Malaysia Must Avoid the Myanmar Junta and Mugabe Syndrome’

Related Topics: Opposition leaders under fire elsewhere

Historical Context: The role of Islam in Malaysia

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Malaysia-Turkey Relationship Tense in Anwar Standoff’

Reference: Malaysia


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