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Malaysian Opposition Leader Files Defamation Suit, Leaves Turkish Embassy


Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has filed a defamation lawsuit against a former aide who accused him of sodomy. As Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta, he has left the Turkish Embassy grounds after seeking refuge there for two days.

Anwar Ibrahim left the embassy compound, saying the government had taken steps to insure his safety.

He sought refuge there Sunday, claiming that sodomy charges against him by a former aide were politically motivated and that he feared for his life. He did not seek political asylum, but previously said he would not leave until the government could guarantee he would not be harmed.

Lawyers for Anwar also filed a lawsuit accusing the 23-year-old former aide of libel and filing a false police report.

The incident strongly resembles events in 1998, when Anwar was convicted on similar charges and sacked as deputy prime minister. Those charges have since been overturned.

Anwar told reporters in a press conference that the new charges were a conspiracy by the ruling Barisan government to discredit him politically.

"I believe we are witnessing a repeat of the methods used against me in 1998 when false allegations were made under duress," he said. "This is clearly a desperate attempt by the Barisan national regime to arrest the movement of the Malaysian people towards freedom, democracy, and justice."

A political analyst from Malaysia's Monash campus, James Chin, says the developments have aggravated growing political turmoil. He says no matter what the outcome, Anwar is likely to gain from the accusations.

"Assuming the worst happens, that is the government or the police charge him for sodomy, he will get a lot of sympathy from a lot of people and a lot of people do not believe the story that he is actually involved in such a thing," he said. "If the government do not charge him for sodomy, he will also get a lot of publicity out of this and he will also get a lot of sympathy from people who feel that he is being persecuted by the government."

A sodomy conviction carries a 20-year prison term in Malaysia.

Anwar led a coalition that gained significant ground during general elections in March. He has promised to oust the ruling party by September this year.

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