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August 9, 2008

Malaysia’s Anwar remains defiant despite charges
Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Friday he is still on track to seize power despite sodomy charges, reported AFP.

A day after being charged in court and released on bail, he pleaded with the authorities to drop the allegations, a re-run of 1998 when he was sacked as deputy premier and convicted on sodomy and corruption counts.

“We see no reason why they should proceed with the case. They should withdraw the charge. Give me a break, I have gone through hell. Let me go on with my life. Why torture me in this way?” he told a press conference.

The opposition leader faces 20 years imprisonment over the accusations made by 23-year-old Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who was a volunteer in his office.

Anwar, who was jailed for six years until the original sodomy conviction was overturned in 2004, said Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had engineered the latest charges because he was on the verge of ousting him.

“I advise those around him to leave the sinking ship of his leadership while there is still a chance to do so,” he said.

“The moment we form the government, we will cut the fuel price and free all political detainees. We are moving close to forming the government.”

After March elections that handed the opposition an unprecedented one-third of parliamentary seats, Anwar needs to draw just 30 lawmakers from the ruling coalition to form a new administration.

Despite the prospect of a gruelling trial, the 60-year-old opposition leader said he was still working towards his goal of forming a government by mid-September.

“That is why they are hell-bent on attacking me,” he said. “Based on reasonable facts I would say we are clearly on track.”

“It may not happen on that day, but we are working on that premise.”

Anwar said that lawmakers from the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has dominated Malaysian politics for half a century, had confirmed they will join his three-member opposition alliance.

“We will have comfortable numbers to form government,” he said.

On August 26 Anwar will contest a by-election in his home state of Penang, in a seat vacated by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail which he is expected to win easily despite the looming sodomy trial.

“I look forward to entering parliament on August 27,” Anwar said.

The United States has repeatedly raised concern over the sodomy allegations, drawing fire from Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim.

“We’ve had enough of this criticism,” Rais said Friday, adding that Washington should raise any issues “in a manner that is judicious, careful and respectful.”

“As the minister of foreign affairs, I would like to send this message loud and clear -- stop meddling in our internal affairs.”

The US State Department on Thursday again aired doubts over the charges against Anwar, and summoned Ilango Karuppannan, the charge d’affaires of the Malaysian embassy in Washington, for a meeting.

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