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Malaysia: Ibrahim Appeals Corruption Conviction - 2002-03-26

In Malaysia, former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim appeared before the country's highest court and asked judges to overturn his conviction for corruption. The session was postponed by a day after a bomb scare Monday disrupted the proceedings.

Lawyers for Anwar Ibrahim Tuesday told judges at the Federal Court in Kuala-Lumpur that his original trial was not fair because important evidence was disallowed or ignored. They added that the sentence was altered three times. Anwar's wife, Wan Aziza Wan Ismail, told VOA she felt the hearing went well. "The three judges of the federal Court have shown patience and understanding and have given a chance for our defense lawyers to articulate our case," she said. "And I am looking forward to seeing a favorable outcome even though I know that the pressure is very much on them, because the executive has actually made the judgments much earlier."

Anwar Ibrahim was convicted in 1999 on four counts of abuse of power and sentenced to six years in prison. This is his final appeal on these charges. Anwar is also serving a nine year sentence after being convicted on sodomy charges. He is appealing this conviction but a court date has not been set yet.

The former deputy prime minister says the charges against him were trumped up to prevent him from challenging Prime Minister Mohammed Mahathir in national elections in 1999. The government denies the charge. Some human rights organizations and the U.S. State Department call Anwar a political prisoner.

The appeal hearings, which had been adjourned since February, were due to resume on Monday. But they were postponed after a bomb threat was received at the courthouse minutes before the session was to start.

Anwar arrived at the courthouse Tuesday in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace. Mrs. Wan Aziza says he is suffering from a back injury that causes him considerable pain.

Anwar's high-profile arrest and trial raised support for his Kaedilan party, which is now led by his wife. But political observers say the party has been weakened in recent months by internal divisions and losses in bye-elections.