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Old 07-16-2008, 07:44 AM
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Buggering-up Malaysian politics

Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim arrested
BBC

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been arrested over allegations of sodomy, police and his lawyer say. Armed police surrounded his car early on Wednesday and took him into custody, his lawyer said.

The move came shortly before Mr Anwar was due to given a statement to police over the claims made against him. The former deputy prime minister denies the allegations, which he says are aimed at ending his political comeback. The move is likely to exacerbate the political tensions that have emerged since the opposition's unprecedented gains in the general election of March 2008.

Mr Anwar has been in a tense stand-off with police since a former male aide accused him of sodomy two weeks ago. Sodomy is punishable by 20 years' imprisonment in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

The 60 year-old opposition leader had been scheduled to report to police on Wednesday to be interviewed over the allegations. But an hour before the meeting, armed police wearing balaclavas took him into custody outside the gates of his home, his lawyer said. "The manner in which they surrounded our vehicle, it put a lot of fear and intimidation into us," Sankara Nair said.

Deputy National Police chief Ismail Omar said Mr Anwar was now being questioned at police headquarters. "We have to record his statement to complete our investigations," he told the French news agency AFP. "Once the facts are in we can make a decision."

Police can detain the opposition leader for 24 hours, after which they must apply for a court order for further detention. Police used tear gas and water cannon against Mr Anwar's supporters in 1998

Political challenge
Mr Anwar's arrest will be seen as provocative by Malaysian opposition groups. When he was arrested on similar charges 10 years ago, his supporters staged large demonstrations.

A BBC correspondent in Kuala Lumpur, Robin Brant, says it is almost certain that the same thing will happen again now. The allegations come only weeks after Mr Anwar said he was in a position to launch a challenge to the ruling coalition, with the help of government defectors.

The opposition leader made his claim at a time when Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is already under intense pressure to resign over poor election results and high fuel prices. Mr Abdullah has said he will leave office in 2010, defying pressure to step down this December.

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