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Jailed Anwar to Appeal Corruption Conviction Next Month - 2002-02-07

Malaysia's former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, will return to court next month to resume the appeal of his corruption conviction. Malaysia's chief justice has pledges to study all the evidence in the case.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's attorneys wrapped up four days of arguments Thursday. Malaysia's most senior judge, Chief Justice Mohamad Dzaiddin Abdullah ordered the case to resume in late March and said he will study the evidence.

This week's hearing is the final round in the appeal of Anwar's six-year prison sentence for corruption. His lawyers argued this week there was insufficient evidence to convict him of charges he sought to influence a police investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

Anwar, once considered heir apparent to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, was sacked in 1998. In 1999 he was found guilty of abuse of power and of sodomy. He is serving a combined jail term of 15 years. Even if the current appeal succeeds, Anwar will remain in jail, pending an appeal of his sodomy conviction.

Anwar's calls for reform in 1998 during the regional economic crisis triggered an outpouring of support, and rising strength for opposition parties, including the Keadilan Party, now led by his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

But since the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, the middle class, which once backed Anwar, now supports Mr. Mahathir, who has endorsed the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

The gatherings of Anwar supporters outside the Kuala Lumpur court this week were far smaller than the crowds who attended his previous court appearances.