Anwar takes refuge in Turkish embassy

He claims sodomy report is aimed at ruining him and that his life is in danger PM Abdullah says ruling coalition not behind accusations

By Carolyn Hong, The Straits Times

MALAYSIAN opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has taken refuge at the Turkish Embassy here even as the government denied it was behind a police report accusing him of sodomy.

Mr Anwar has denounced the allegation made by a young assistant, calling it politically motivated and aimed at destroying his goal of taking over the government.

He also claims that he had received death threats and told The Straits Times in an interview yesterday that he would not leave the embassy until he received a personal guarantee of safety from Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

The sodomy accusation has rocked Malaysia, already in upheaval since the shock results of the March general election, which saw a massive swing against the ruling coalition.

Datuk Seri Abdullah moved swiftly yesterday to scotch swirling rumours, saying neither his Barisan Nasional coalition government nor Deputy Premier Najib Razak had anything to do with the police report.

‘Umno and Barisan Nasional did not plan to trouble, disturb or accuse him. I believe even my friends like Najib did not have any intention of doing such a thing to him,’ Mr Abdullah was quoted as saying by The Star.

Still, conspiracy theories circulated wildly after Mr Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 23, made his bombshell accusation on Saturday, saying he had been sodomised by Mr Anwar.

A little-known figure in Mr Anwar’s opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, Mr Saiful was described as a volunteer who showed up around the March polls.

It is not known what he did as Mr Anwar’s aide, though some party officials said he did little more than serve coffee.

In his police report, which has been posted online, he claimed that he was sodomised last Thursday in an apartment at a condominium in the swanky Damansara Heights neighbourhood.

He said he did not consent, and was reporting the incident because he feared for his safety.

Yesterday, Mr Anwar’s wife, Datin Seri Wan Azizah Ismail, said her husband was the target of a ‘political assassination’ attempt, and pointed an accusing finger at Deputy Premier Najib.

She showed reporters a photograph of Mr Saiful with one of Mr Najib’s aides but it was not clear when the photo was taken.

Mr Anwar, 60, has made plain that he is eyeing the prime minister’s job and suggested that it could happen with defections from the ruling coalition.

The other main candidate to be prime minister is Mr Najib, who is next in line from the BN side.

Mr Anwar’s coalition partners – the Democratic Action Party and Parti Islam SeMalaysia – reacted cautiously yesterday, saying the police probe should be carried out to uncover the truth.

Mr Saiful’s accusation harked back to 1998 when Mr Anwar was the deputy premier and was sacked by then premier Mahathir Mohamad over charges that he had sodomised several men

The sodomy conviction was overturned by the Federal Court in 2004 and he was released.

Yesterday, Mr Anwar went into hiding immediately after issuing a statement rejecting Mr Saiful’s allegations as a ‘complete fabrication’.

‘This is clearly a desperate attempt by the Barisan Nasional regime to arrest the movement of the Malaysian people towards freedom, democracy and justice,’ he added.

‘I have been told that my assassination has not been ruled out as a means to subvert the people’s will,’ he said in a later statement from the Turkish Embassy.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat official Din Merican said he was with Mr Anwar at a meeting in his party’s office last Thursday – the day Mr Saiful claimed he was sodomised.

Mr Anwar has also accused ‘interested parties’ of attacking him because he has evidence that Attorney-General Gani Patail and police chief Musa Hassan had fabricated evidence for his trials in 1998.

Criminal Investigation Department director Bakri Zinin said yesterday that the police will be impartial in their investigation.

He said Mr Anwar’s movements were not restricted but he will be asked to give a statement to the police. He also warned Mr Anwar’s supporters not to take to the streets as they did in 1998.

Mr Saiful has been at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital for a medical check-up since he made his police report and is under police protection.

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