Anwar's Sodomy Charge Trumped-up, Says Wall Street Journal
The last time Malaysian democrat Anwar Ibrahim was prosecuted on a trumped-up sodomy charge, we wrote that the government's "crude measures will exact a heavy price in terms of lost credibility." Ten years later, Malaysia's political leaders are repeating their mistakes.***** What a damning indictment of our leaders, the police and the legal system. Pak Lah should move very carefully on this issue, lest our reputation as a 'democratic' nation be further tarnished worldwide.
On Wednesday, Mr. Anwar was picked up by men in ski masks and hauled to police headquarters. He was interrogated for six hours, stripped and asked to supply a DNA sample -- a request he refused. He spent the night on a concrete floor without furniture and was released on bail Thursday morning. Malaysian media report that the government is exploring ways to compel Mr. Anwar to give DNA.
Mr. Anwar's accuser -- his former aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan -- is under police protection. It's not a stretch to imagine Mr. Anwar's DNA finding its way onto his clothes as "evidence," as that's the tactic the police used back in 1998. Mr. Anwar wryly noted at a press conference that, while he was stripped, the police measured his "necessary parts." That kind of detail would be helpful in a show trial.
Ten years ago then-Deputy Prime Minister Anwar was falsely convicted of sodomy and jailed for six years. His conviction was overturned by the high court in 2004. A conviction for abuse of power stood, and Mr. Anwar did not become eligible for political office again until April. Today, he leads the political opposition and is on a path to the premiership.
The same cast of characters from 1998 are in positions of influence today. The inspector general of police, Musa Hassan, was the lead investigating officer into Mr. Anwar's 1998 case, and Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail was the lead prosecutor. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak competed with Mr. Anwar for the leadership of the United Malays National Organization in the 1990s. Then, as now, Mr. Anwar's popularity is a threat to the deputy PM's political future.
Home Minister Syed Hamid called the arrest "not a political move," while others have suggested that Mr. Anwar has nothing to fear from a "fair" trial. Malaysia's state-run media have fallen into line, too. One headline in the New Straits Times reads: "Trust in the authorities needed to restore calm."
But it's trust in the system that's lacking here. Given Mr. Anwar's judicial treatment the last time around, it is difficult to believe he would get a fair trial. His arrest is likely to stimulate more support for his cause of a more democratic and free Malaysia. The government obtained a court order barring Mr. Anwar and the public from going within five kilometers of Parliament on Monday, the day he was planning to attend a key debate.
Malaysia's democracy has come a long way since 1998, when Mahathir Mohamad was Prime Minister. The current Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, has introduced a number of reforms, including in the judiciary. Malaysia's democratic institutions -- and Mr. Abdullah's credibility -- are now threatened by his government's treatment of Mr. Anwar.
Update on Anwar's treatment at the hospital: Anwar not made to strip naked, says HKL director