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Officer says police coerced retractions in Anwar case next article click here

Anwar waves to supporters on Monday   
November 10, 1998
Web posted at: 3:42 a.m. EST (0842 GMT) 

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- A police official testified Tuesday that he had coerced two key witnesses into retracting sexual misconduct allegations against Anwar Ibrahim, allegedly on orders from the former deputy prime minister himself.

Anwar's trial on sex and corruption charges has captured worldwide attention. He was once in line to rule this country of 22 million people, but is now seeking to ward off a lengthy prison term and political oblivion.

Tuesday's testimony focused on statements by Ummi Hafilda, who said Anwar had sex with the wife of his own personal secretary. Ummi is the secretary's sister.

The court was also considering statements by Azizan Abu Bakar, who served as Anwar's driver and claimed the defendant committed sodomy with him.

Both later retracted their allegations, in what prosecutors claim was a deliberate cover-up attempt by Anwar while he was still in power as deputy prime minister.

Abdul Aziz Husin of the police Special Branch testified that he and other officers subjected Ummi "to intense mental pressures" in getting 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, the driver who claimed to have committed sodomy with Anwar.

An awkward time for a summit

The trial has become a point of contention with Malaysia about to play host to a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, including U.S. President Bill Clinton, next week. Critics say the trial and allegations that police beat the 51-year-old Anwar highlight the country's human rights abuses.

Anwar, dressed casually in a white shirt with no tie, sat in the defendant's dock and appeared unmoved by Tuesday's testimony. He is being held in prison, possibly for the duration of the trial.

Separately, Anwar's wife, Azizah Ismail, read a statement to reporters from her husband, denying reports that he has a controlling interest in a company whose name has surfaced during the investigations against him.

Last week, the first witness, former Special Branch Chief Mohamed Said Awang, testified that Anwar had forced police to arrest and coerce retractions from the two.

Anwar was arrested Sept. 20, two weeks after he was fired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, setting off anti-government protests. Anwar has pleaded innocent to 10 charges of corruption and illegal sex acts.

Dozens of diplomats, international human rights and jurist groups are sitting in on the trial, which is expected to last well into next year.

The proceedings have created friction between Malaysia and some of the 20 leaders who will take part in a summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group in Kuala Lumpur Nov. 17-18.

Denying the charges against him, Anwar has said they were fabricated because Prime Minister Mahathir considered Anwar's popularity a threat to his 17-year rule.