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Malaysia’s Anwar Verdict Postponed

August 3, 2000

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ The High Court postponed Friday’s scheduled verdict in jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial amid opposition plans to mount a massive protest.

Sankara Nair, Anwar’s attorney, said the court sent a statement Thursday saying Justice Ariffin Jaka would not deliver the verdict in the yearlong trial that has raised concerns about Malaysia’s judicial and political system.

No reason was given and no new date was set, Nair said. Another lawyer said that it appeared Ariffin’s judgment was not ready yet.

The decision came as pro-Anwar activists were organizing a huge rally in front of the court for Friday morning. Rights activists and opposition politicians had vowed to defy dire warnings that police would arrest anybody trying to demonstrate.

Amnesty International had urged Malaysian authorities to respect human rights amid fears of a police crackdown.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad describes Anwar as a corrupt sexual deviant unfit for public office. Anwar allies say he is being judged unfairly by a system controlled by Mahathir and that there is a conspiracy to destroy his career.

A guilty verdict could add several years to the six-year jail sentence that Anwar, 52, was given for corruption last year. Sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a whipping.

A conviction could take Anwar away from public gaze for more than a decade. Although he could remain a martyr to many, it would be a severe blow to his campaign to liberalize Malaysian politics and end Mahathir’s 19-year administration.

Mahathir fired Anwar in September 1998, when the Asian economic crisis had battered a once-booming economy and differences broke into the open between the two men on how to deal with it. Sentiment was building that Anwar was about to make his move for the top job.

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