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Jailed Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim Subject of Powell Talks - 2002-07-30

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Tuesday visited Kuala Lumpur, where he praised Malaysia for its staunch support of the war on terror. He also raised the Bush Administration's concerns about jailed opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim.

Mr. Powell said he and his Malaysian counterpart, Syed Hamid Albar, had what he described as a candid discussion about Anwar Ibrahim at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Once a rising protege of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar Ibrahim was removed as deputy in 1998 and is now serving a 15 year jail sentence for sodomy and abuse of power. He denies the charges.

The U.S. State Department has repeatedly said that it considers the former deputy a political prisoner and that his trials were flawed.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly met separately with Anwar Ibrahim's wife, Wan Azizah, for nearly an hour.

Wan Azizah, who heads a political coalition opposed to Mr. Mahathir's government, said Mr. Kelly asked about her husband's condition and assured her that the United States was still concerned about human rights and democracy in Malaysia.

But Malaysia's foreign minister said he also assured Mr. Powell that his country believed in human rights and in the rule of law.

Since the September 11 attacks, the United States has considered Malaysia a partner in the fight against terrorism. This is the first time that senior Bush Administration officials have voiced any criticism of Malaysia but they have limited the concern to the Anwar case.

Malaysia has used its controversial Internal Security Act to detain indefinitely dozens of suspected terrorists without trial, drawing some criticism from human rights groups.

Human rights activists has also leveled similar criticisms against the United States for indefinitely detaining Afghan militants at a U.S. military base in Cuba.