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Malaysia's Mahathir faces legal challenge on ousting of Anwar

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November 13, 1998
Web posted at: 6:17 a.m. EDT (0617 GMT) 

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Ousted finance minister Anwar Ibrahim will claim in a court challenge that Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad violated the constitution in sacking him.

"I have decided to contest my expulsion as deputy prime minister and finance minister by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad," Anwar said in a statement read to reporters outside the High Court by his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Mahathir dismissed his former deputy on September 2, calling him morally unfit. Anwar was arrested 18 days later and he has pleaded not guilty to five counts each of corruption and sodomy.

His High Court trial adjourned after its 10th day on Friday ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the Malaysian capital next week.

Former allies go head-to-head

Anwar's challenge is the latest twist in the showdown with Mahathir who was his former patron.

Malaysian officials want to prevent the Anwar case from becoming a sideshow to the APEC summit. However, several high-ranking officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, are expected to meet with Anwar's wife

The corruption and sex trial is set to resume on November 23 after the meeting ends.

"I have been advised that my expulsion was unlawful and against the federal constitution," Anwar said. His supporters and opposition leaders say Mahathir failed to receive the consent of the king before dismissing his deputy.

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang has said the government has not clarified whether Mahathir advised the king to sack Anwar or merely informed him of the fact.

The king's powers are mostly ceremonial, but he can dismiss ministers on the advice of the prime minister, legal experts say.

Kit Siang said that if Mahathir had not advised the king before sacking his deputy, he was calling into question the role of the monarch, much revered in Malaysia.

"You don't sack someone and inform the king," lawyer Karpal Singh told reporters outside the capital's High Court before the suit was to be filed. "Sacking is in the hands of the king on advice of course from the prime minister."

The civil suit against Mahathir and the Malaysian government was to be filed in the High Court on Friday.

Keeping within the rules

Anwar said the purpose of the suit was not to have himself reinstated in Mahathir's Cabinet. "I regard him as having lost credibility, cruel and corrupt," he said.

"It is my responsibility to prove that the rule of law must be accepted. I wish to prove that Dr Mahathir has cast aside the nation's highest law that is the federal constitution and does not respect the institution of the constitutional rulers."

Anwar said the way he was dismissed showed Mahathir's "arrogance in assuming himself as prime minister as well as constitutional ruler," and that the prime minister had disregarded a question in parliament on the matter.

"He (Mahathir) expects the public to obey laws including restrictions against gatherings, but he himself has cast aside laws and the federal constitution," Anwar said.

Before the trial adjourned on Friday, a senior police officer told the court he might have exceeded his authority in getting Anwar's former driver to retract his allegation that he had been sodomized by the former minister.

"I went beyond my authority and jurisdiction," Assistant Commissioner of Police Mazlan Mohd Din said.

The prosecution is seeking to prove Anwar abused his power by urging police to force his ex-driver and the sister of his former private secretary to drop allegations of sex crimes against him.