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Protests Rock Malaysia Capital

April 17, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Helmeted riot police fired water cannons and tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators and clashed with stone-throwing youths in anti-government protests Saturday.

Demonstrations against Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad have raged in the capital since a judge sentenced Malaysia’s ousted No. 2 leader, Anwar Ibrahim, on Wednesday to six years in prison.

Armed police repeatedly ordered protesters to disperse but they ignored the warnings. When police surged towards them, swinging wooden clubs, the protesters ran into darkened alleyways and a mosque.

Protesters who took refuge in the mosque began throwing rocks at officers, who fired back with water cannons laced with pepper spray.

``Down with Mahathir! Long live Anwar!″ the demonstrators cried, punching their fists in the air.

Earlier, nearly 1,000 demonstrators marched in the capital, chanting anti-government slogans. Passing motorcyclists and drivers honked in support of the protesters, who initially gathered behind the courthouse where Anwar was sentenced.

The crowd consisted mostly of young men _ many with handkerchiefs and T-shirts tied around their faces to hide their identities.

They jeered at several truckloads of riot police armed with clubs, who then pounded the crowd with a water cannon.

Police had attempted to prevent the demonstrations, earlier detaining more than 60 youths near the courthouse.

Anwar was sacked as deputy last September by Mahathir, and led rallies demanding reform, before being arrested on charges of corruption and illegal sex acts. Anwar has repeatedly denied the charges, accusing Mahathir of plotting to crush the challenge to his 18-year leadership.

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