Testimony Continues in Anwar Trial
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ A police official testified today that he coerced two key witnesses into retracting sexual misconduct allegations against Anwar Ibrahim, allegedly on orders from the former deputy prime minister.
Anwar, once in line to rule this country of 22 million people, has pleaded innocent to 10 charges of corruption and illegal sex acts. His Sept. 20 arrest, two weeks after he was fired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, set off anti-government protests.
Today’s testimony focused on statements by Ummi Hafilda, who said Anwar had sex with the wife of his personal secretary. Ummi is the sister of the secretary.
The court was also considering statements by Anwar’s former driver, Azizan Abu Bakar, who claimed the defendant had sodomized him.
Both later retracted their allegations in what prosecutors claim was a deliberate cover-up attempt by Anwar while he was still deputy prime minister.
Officer Abdul Aziz Husin testified that he and other officers subjected Ummi ``to intense mental pressures″ to get her to retract the allegations.
That included interrogation ``from midnight to morning″ and threats to jail her under a law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.
``These combined approaches subjected her to intense mental pressures until she lost the will to resist and succumbed to the interrogation team,″ Abdul Aziz told the court.
Abdul Aziz said he and other officers used similar techniques on Azizan.
Last week, former Special Branch Chief Mohamed Said Awang testified that Anwar had forced police to arrest and coerce retractions from the two.
Critics say the trial and allegations that police beat the 51-year-old Anwar while he was in custody highlight the country’s human rights abuses.
Dozens of diplomats, international human rights and jurist groups are sitting in on the trial, which is expected to last well into next year.
Denying the charges against him, Anwar has said they were fabricated because Mahathir considered Anwar’s popularity a threat to his 17-year rule.
During a recess in today’s proceedings, Anwar was asked his reaction to the decision by President Clinton and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to snub private talks with Mahathir during a trade summit next week.
``Mahathir should consider it serious. Even foreign leaders reject him,″ Anwar told reporters.