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Anwar trial resumes with charges of harsh treatment

Mahathir and Gore 
Mahathir and Gore at the APEC summit last week   

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November 24, 1998
Web posted at: 2:35 a.m. EST (0735 GMT) 

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Lawyers defending opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accused authorities in court on Tuesday of handling him harshly but treating his accusers gently.

Police broke down the door of the former deputy prime minister's home to arrest him on corruption and sex charges on Sept. 20, and Anwar later appeared in court with a black eye and bruises. He has accused guards of beating him.

Anwar's lawyers said his treatment contrasts sharply with what happened last year, when agents negotiated for four hours before apprehending two of Anwar's accusers, said defense lawyer Christopher Fernando.

Fernando, questioning police officer Mazlan Mansor, suggested in court Tuesday that the two accusers -- Ummi Hafilda and Azizan Abu Bakar -- were treated softly because they were backed by men in power.
Anwar 
Anwar waves to reporters as he leaves court during a break on Monday   

Letter detailed alleged crimes

Malaysia's police chief received a letter last year accusing Anwar Ibrahim of sex crimes, the court trying the sacked finance minister was told.

Amir Junos, the outgoing deputy director of the police intelligence unit, told the capital's High Court that police chief Abdul Rahim Noor had informed him that Domestic Trade Minister Megat Junid Megat Ayob had turned over the letter.

In the August 1997 letter, Ummi Hafilda Ali, the sister of Anwar's former political secretary, accused the then deputy prime minister and finance minister of sodomy and adultery.

"The IGP told me that Megat Junat came to his office on the morning of August 8 and handed him a letter entitled 'The Wrongdoings of the DPM'," Amir said, referring to Inspector-General of Police Rahim Noor.

Trial date set for protesters

Meanwhile, the trial of 127 people arrested during a rally supporting Anwar was set February, news reports said Tuesday.

The protesters were arrested in October, during a massive show of support for the opposition leader. Their trial was initially set for May, but a new judge appointed to the cases ruled on Monday that the date would be moved to Feb. 2 in the "public interest," the Star and New Straits Times newspapers said.

Anwar's Sept. 20 arrest sparked angry protests at home, and triggered international outrage when he appeared in court with injuries. Anwar has said he was blindfolded by police and beaten until he lost consciousness.

He is being held on corruption and sex charges, and says they are part of a political vendetta orchestrated by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

His trial, recessed by the Malaysian government during the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Malaysia, resumed Monday.

The arrested protesters, if convicted of disobeying police orders, could face up to a year in jail and fines of 10,000 ringgit ($2,600).

During the latest protest on Saturday, police arrested at least four Anwar supporters, including opposition leader Tian Chua, a human rights activist.

The four were sent to jail on Monday for eight days, pending investigations against them. No charges have been pressed against Chua or the other three.

Gore comments still provoke anger

Malaysia on Monday again denounced a speech by Vice President Al Gore during the APEC summit. Gore had praised reformers who support the democracy movement started by Anwar.

"Gore's speech was an incitement of lawlessness and not simply a call of democracy as claimed," John Tenewi Nuek, the Foreign Ministry's undersecretary for the Americas, told national news agency Bernama on Monday.

But U.S. Ambassador John Malott said "Malaysians should look beyond attempts to miscast Gore's speech."

Gore's remarks triggered an outcry against the United States. On Sunday, an effigy of Gore was burned at a gathering of several hundred people carrying anti-American placards in the northern state of Perlis.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.