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World - Asia/Pacific

Malaysia's Anwar loses bail appeal

graphic January 16, 1999
Web posted at: 4:27 a.m. EST (0927 GMT)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim lost a bid to be released from jail Saturday in a week of setbacks for the ousted deputy prime minister.

The Court of Appeal in the capital dismissed Anwar's appeal of a lower court decision denying him bail. Anwar was arrested in September after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad dismissed him from the Cabinet.

High Court Judge Augustine Paul, who is presiding over the criminal trial, had twice turned down Anwar's requests for bail on the grounds he could interfere with witnesses if released.

But at Saturday's hearing, Anwar's lawyers did not even get the chance to put their case.

The three-judge court decided it could not hear the appeal because the matter had not been fully disposed of in the High Court.

"The appeal is therefore incompetent," said N.H. Chan, one of the three Court of Appeal judges.

Noisy supporters bother judge

There also was an apparent backlash against Anwar by one of the judges who was upset at the noise made by the former politician's supporters.

Judge Lamin Yunus said there had been shouting by Anwar's supporters outside the High Court since his criminal trial started in November.

"I consider such noises a breach of the peace. To my mind, this sort of situation must be treated as another factor," the judge told the court.

Large numbers of Anwar supporters had gathered outside the High Court at the outset of the criminal trial, shouting slogans in support of the former deputy prime minister and finance minister.

In recent days, dozens of supporters have lined a river bank next to the court and shouted slogans as Anwar, his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and his lawyers leave the court after the trial adjourns for the day.

Chronology of Malaysian political turbulence

Doing hard time

Anwar has been in custody since masked commandos broke into his suburban home on September 20 and arrested him, hours after he led 30,000 demonstrators through the streets of the capital calling on Mahathir to step down after 17 years in power.

He was first held in federal police headquarters in the capital under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial. Authorities said he had been arrested to prevent a breakdown of security.

He was later indicted on five counts each of sodomy and corruption, and shifted to a prison on the outskirts of the capital where he has since been held.

Anwar has pleaded not guilty to all 10 criminal charges in his trial, which began in November and is adjourned until January 26.

Earlier this week, prosecutors were permitted to amend four corruption charges more than two months into the trial.

Anwar's lawyers said the amendments lowered the burden of proof that government prosecutors would have to meet to win Anwar's conviction under the corruption statute, which provides for a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail and a 20,000 ringgit ($5,000) fine for each count.

The judge then threw out all evidence introduced during 10 weeks of hearings relating to alleged sexual misconduct and sodomy. Anwar denounced the decision, saying it deprived him of the chance to clear his name.

Mahathir has said Anwar was morally unfit to succeed him as prime minister. Anwar has said he was the victim of a plot by Mahathir's associates to sideline him from power.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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