By REUTERS, Manila Bulletin Online
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) — Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister and now leader of Malaysia’s opposition, took his seat in parliament on Thursday after a decade- long absence following convictions for sodomy and corruption.
Anwar, 61, won a sweeping victory in a by-election on Tuesday and has now set his eyes on the country’s premiership, vowing to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 16.
The charismatic father of six remains dogged by his past, however, and faces prosecution on Sept. 10 to answer new charges of sodomy after allegations by a male aide.
Anwar says the latest sodomy case is politically motivated and designed to scuttle his quest to lead Malaysia and reform the economy.
Before his fall from grace in the late 1990s, Anwar was deputy prime minister in the government that has ruled Malaysia for 50 years and widely viewed as heir apparent to then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
But in 1998, after Malaysia plunged into the Asian financial crisis, he took up a campaign against the corruption, collusion and nepotism he said characterised Malaysia’s business and political nexus.
Mahathir immediately sacked him from his posts, and charges of sodomy and corruption soon followed — allegations Anwar still insists were concocted to thwart his ‘’reformasi’’ (reform) campaign.
Anwar’s case drew international outrage after he appeared in court on the 1998 charges with a black eye and bruises after getting beaten up behind bars by the police chief, who was later fired for it.
Human rights groups called him a political prisoner, and his supporters compared him to former South African President Nelson Mandela, who rose to power after years in jail. [more]