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Paris, Thursday, November 12, 1998

Conspiracy Talk Halted in Anwar Trial

Compiled by Our Staff From Dispatches click for next article
KUALA LUMPUR - The judge in the trial of Anwar Ibrahim rejected defense attempts Wednesday to argue that the former Malaysian deputy prime minister was the victim of a political conspiracy.

 Mr. Anwar maintains the sex and corruption charges against him stem from his rivalry with Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, and has pleaded not guilty. The criminal proceedings have cast a shadow over summit talks next week of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, with critics saying the case demonstrates human rights abuses in this Southeast Asian nation.

 During proceedings Wednesday, the defense lawyer Christopher Fernando hinted that there were irregularities with the letter announcing Mr. Anwar's firing on Sept. 2.

 ''The defense of the accused is that there was a political conspiracy to bring the trumped-up charges, to remove the accused and to destroy him politically,'' Mr. Fernando said.

 Judge Augustine Paul cut him short, saying: ''What you say sounds like a political speech.''

 Undeterred, Mr. Fernando shot back: ''There was a conspiracy. We will endeavor to show that the crucial witnesses of the prosecution would be lying in court.''

 Judge Paul overruled him, saying: ''I honestly do not think that has any bearing.''

 Separately, Mr. Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, said Wednesday that her husband's arrest had triggered a groundswell of support for change.

''My husband's dismissal was a turning point, and suddenly the whole nation has come forward, mainly the middle class, and it has crossed all borders of race, all borders of political parties as well,'' she said.

 Miss Azizah also said Wednesday she expected to meet President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada during the APEC meeting.