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Malaysian Court Rejects Anwar Bail Request - 2004-01-21

A Malaysian appellate court has rejected a bail application by former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who has completed a sentence for abuse of power and is appealing a conviction of sodomy. Mr. Anwar lashed out at the judges for their decision, while his lawyers say they will appeal the decision to a higher court.

At a 15-minute hearing, the appeal court judges ruled that the former deputy prime minister must remain in prison while he appeals a sentence for sodomy.

Last April, Mr. Anwar completed two-thirds of a six-year sentence for abuse of power, which made him eligible for release. But he immediately began serving a separate nine-year sentence for sodomy, even though his appeal against that conviction is pending.

Mr. Anwar appeared in court wearing a neck brace. He says his back was injured by the police at the time of his arrest in 1998. He had argued that if freed on bail, he would be able to seek treatment for the injuries.

He responded angrily to the bail rejection, shouting that the judges had acted "spinelessly," and accusing the courts of being under the control of the executive branch.

Sankara Nair, one of Mr. Anwar's lawyers, described the court's decision as a "travesty." He said Mr. Anwar will be filing a report with the police accusing the judges of acting dishonestly, by refusing to accept key documents relating to the case. He also said a new application for bail will be made to Malaysia's highest court, the Federal Court. "We are not going to keep quiet," said Mr. Nair. "We are going to make an application to the highest court in the land. We will make another attempt at bail."

Prior to his arrest in 1998, Mr. Anwar was considered the heir-apparent to then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

But he fell out of favor with Mr. Mahathir, who retired last October. Mr. Mahathir fired him, and had him arrested on what critics say were politically-motivated charges.

Mr. Anwar's supporters had hoped the new prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, might look on Mr. Anwar's case more leniently.

After the judges left the courtroom, Mr. Anwar called for Mr. Abdullah to end what he termed the "charade" surrounding the charges against him. He also accused the prime minister of acting hypocritically.

Human rights groups and several Western governments, including the United States, have called Mr. Anwar a political prisoner.