Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has a big, gay problem.
Police yesterday arrested him on suspicion of sodomy, a charge put forth by a 23-year old ex-aide, but Ibrahim denies the “defamatory” charges as nothing more than a political conspiracy.
The politician, a former deputy prime minister who spent years in jail on corruption charges, claims Malaysia’s government wants to stomp him down after his return to the national stage earlier this year.
Despite – or in spite – of his claims, masked agents arrested Ibrahim yesterday afternoon:
About a dozen policemen, some of them wearing ski masks, cordoned off the road leading to Anwar’s house and stopped his car, said his lawyer Sankara Nair. He said Anwar was arrested for suspected sodomy.
Anwar was bundled into a police car with dark tinted windows and driven to the police headquarters where a crowd of opposition lawmakers including his wife, Azizah Ismail, gathered outside. They were not allowed inside, and there was no trouble or violence.
”This is not a criminal case but a political case,” said Azmin Ali, the vice president of Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, adding that the arrest was ”outrageous and very uncivilized.”
Ibrahim’s long been dogged by gay rumors. His political career crumbled in 1998 after his wife’s chauffeur accused him of sodomy. A judge sentenced him to nine years, but that ruling was later overturned. Ibrahim’s allies are calling yesterday’s arrest “a repeat of the 1998 script.” The ruling National Front coalition see Ibrahim as an enormous threat to their power, especially after he helped the PJP erode their base in this year’s elections.
As news spread of Ibrahim’s arrest, his supporters began to march on Parliament, demanding his release. Police were called in to blockade the building and halt what Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called a “demonstration.” Not surprisingly, he supports the police investigation.
If convicted, Ibrahim could face 20-years in jail.