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New developments'' spare prosecutor in Anwar trial

November 26, 1998
Web posted at: 1:16 AM EST (0616 GMT)

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The chief prosecutor in the trial of Malaysia's ousted finance minister Anwar Ibrahim was spared having to testify in a separate criminal case on Thursday after lawyers abruptly asked for adjournment.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Abdul Gani Patail, lead prosecutor in Anwar's corruption and sex case, had been subpoenaed to appear as a surprise witness in the trial of a former tennis partner of Anwar accused of illegal possession of live bullets.

Legal sources said the defense had planned to try to prove government lawyers had improperly pursued the ammunition case against Anwar's friend, Nallakarruppan Solaimalai, in hopes of improving their chances of having Anwar convicted.

The decision by Nallakarruppan's lawyers to subpoena Abdul Gani had thrown Anwar's trial into disarray, forcing the judge to adjourn proceedings abruptly after a half-day session on Wednesday and delaying the resumption of the trial on Thursday.

The defense in Nallakarruppan's trial had also planned to call one of his lawyers, Manjeet Singh Dhillon, as a witness on Thursday.

"Manjeet will be making explosive revelations relating to the Anwar case," a lawyer had said on Wednesday.

But Balwant Singh, one of Nallakarruppan's lawyers, told the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Thursday that the defense wanted to postpone calling Abdul Gani or Manjeet Singh.

"I'm asking for the decision to be deferred for the moment on the application to call Manjeet Singh as witness because there have been some new developments this morning," Balwant Singh said, without elaborating.

The lawyer said the defense was also asking that the subpoena asking Abdul Gani to testify be deferred.

Nallakarruppan's new lawyer, Jagjit Singh, then said he needed time to familiarize himself with the case. Jagjit Singh had taken the place of Manjeet Singh after he was discharged from the case in expectation of testifying.

The judge ordered Nallakarruppan's trial postponed until January 25.

Balwant Singh later told Reuters that the defense team intended to "make a representation to the attorney-general" before the trial resumes. He did not elaborate.

Nallakarruppan, a former executive director of Malaysian gaming company Magnum Corp Bhd, was indicted in August under the Internal Security Act for unlawful possession of 125 rounds of 6.25 mm ammunition.

If proven, the offense carries a mandatory death sentence.

The bullets were found in Nallakarruppan's house during a police probe of allegations published in a book, "Fifty Reasons Why Anwar Ibrahim Cannot Become Prime Minister."

Nallakarruppan has not denied the presence of the bullets but said he had had a license for them.

Police are investigating allegations that Nallakarruppan gave 60 million ringgit ($16 million) in cash to Anwar during 1995 general elections and helped secure women for him.

Nallakarruppan and Anwar have denied the allegations, and Anwar has accused authorities of cooperating in an alleged conspiracy to smear him and destroy his political career.

In Anwar's trial, the High Court is initially examining four corruption charges that allege Anwar used his power in August 1997 as then deputy prime minister and finance minister to force police to obtain retractions from his two accusers.