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World - Middle East

Public hearings to probe alleged beatings of Malaysia's Anwar

Attorney general blamed police for injuries

February 21, 1999
Web posted at: 2:53 a.m. EST (0753 GMT)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- A new phase in the saga of former minister Anwar Ibrahim starts Monday, when a royal commission begins a public inquiry into injuries Anwar received while in police custody.

Anwar, who was ousted from his government position and is now on trial on corruption and sodomy charges, appeared in court on September 29 with a black eye and bruises on his hands and neck, injuries which provoked international criticism.

The royal commission is charged with identifying those responsible for the injuries and reporting to the head of state, the king. The hearings are expected to last about two weeks.

Police chief resigned

Some three dozen people including Anwar have been served with subpoenas to appear before the commission, which will meet in a court complex near the room where Anwar's corruption trial has been under way since November.

The commission was formed after police investigators failed to identify who hit Anwar after he was arrested in September.

Anwar, who less than three weeks before his arrest had been Malaysia's second most powerful politician, said he was blindfolded and beaten until unconscious and bleeding after hooded police detained him on September 20.

Last month, the police chief resigned after Attorney-General Mohtar Abdulah blamed the police for Anwar's injuries.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad then gave up his post as home minister in charge of the police and passed the baton to new Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi who has promised a more "people friendly" police force.

The royal commission is headed by former chief justice Anwar Zainal Abidin. The other members are former Court of Appeal Judge Mahadev Sankar and former Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Yeoh Poh Hong, an orthopaedic surgeon.

Former attorney-general Abu Talib Othman will lead the questioning during the hearings, which will be open to the public and the press.

The opposition and non-governmental organizations have accused the police of using excessive force to break up anti-government demonstrations which erupted after Anwar was arrested in September.

Arrest followed protest against Mahathir

The police have defended their actions, saying the protests, which have since tapered off, were illegal and could have sparked race riots.

Anwar was sacked from his posts as deputy prime minister and finance minister on September 2, with Mahathir calling him morally unfit to lead the nation.

He was arrested 18 days later, after leading 30,000 protesters through the capital calling on Mahathir to step down after 17 years in power.

Anwar has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of corruption and sodomy, saying he was a victim of a conspiracy by political enemies to finish his career.

Anwar has asked the royal commission to allow his lawyers to cross-examine witnesses, Abu Talib said. The commission was expected to rule on the request on Monday.

It was not clear whether the corruption trial would adjourn to allow Anwar to make a scheduled appearance before the commission on Tuesday.

Reuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
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Anwar says prosecution lawyers in cahoots with his enemies
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Malaysia's Anwar under fire as he details conspiracy theory
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Malaysia's Anwar takes the stand in trial
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RELATED SITES:
Malaysia (general information)
Welcome To The Star Online Malaysia
New Malaysia Free Press
Prime Minister's Office of Malaysia
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