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Anwar Supporters Gather in Malaysia

September 18, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Hundreds of Malaysians called Saturday for an independent investigation into jailed leader Anwar Ibrahim’s claim that he was poisoned with arsenic.

In the latest demonstration organized for Anwar, more than 1,000 people gathered following afternoon prayers at the Shah Alam mosque, 15 miles from the capital of Kuala Lumpur, to voice support for the ousted deputy prime minister.

Shouting anti-government slogans, they protested the leader’s imprisonment for corruption, and signed a statement calling for an outside probe into the ousted deputy prime minister’s claim last week that he had been poisoned while in prison.

Anwar, who is serving a six-year sentence, says the corruption charges were part of a political conspiracy to quash his challenge to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

A separate sodomy trial was adjourned last week after medical tests showed dangerous levels of arsenic in Anwar’s urine. He was hospitalized to undergo tests.

Government leaders have said the arsenic could have come from food given to Anwar by his family.

Around the country, Anwar’s supporters have organized various protests in the last week, many affiliated with Keadilan, the party headed by Anwar’s wife, Azizah Ismail.

In the northern state of Penang, more than 200 opposition and human rights activists gathered for an hour Saturday before handing a similar petition calling for investigations into the poisoning to the state’s ruler, Dr. Hamdan Sheikh Tahir, the national news agency Bernama reported.

Last Saturday, more than 2,000 supporters gathered downtown for the largest rally since Anwar’s conviction in April on charges of corruption.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad lashed out against opposition parties that resorted to protests. He said that the ruling National Front party was also capable of holding even bigger processions but had chosen not do so.

``We do not work that way,″ he was quoted as saying by Bernama. ``This is not our country’s style.″

Kuala Lumpur’s police chief Deputy Commissioner Kamaruddin Ali has told supporters of the opposition party headed by Anwar’s wife not to organize mass protests.

Meanwhile, the key witness in Anwar’s sodomy trial announced plans to marry a college student with whom he allegedly had illicit sexual contact, news reports said Saturday.

Azizan Abu Bakar, Anwar’s former family driver and now a businessman, has accused Anwar of sodomizing him repeatedly more than five years ago. His allegations form the basis of the sodomy case against Anwar.

Azizan, 39, was arrested Thursday and charged in an Islamic court with ``close proximity″ _ a sexual offense _ after police found him in a room with 22-year-old Norhayati Saad.

Azizan and Norhayati, accompanied by family members, turned up Friday at an Islamic Affairs department in the northern state of Perlis hoping to get married, the New Straits Times reported.

However, department officials told the couple they would have to go through a special course for Muslim couples before they could tie the knot, the daily said.

Islamic law prohibits sex outside marriage, and police raids on suspected offenders are common. Azizan faces up to two years in jail and the equivalent of a $790 fine if convicted on the ``close proximity″ charge.