Malaysian opposition leader takes refuge in Turkish Embassy
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim took refuge at the Turkish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday after police began investigating an allegation that he sodomized his male aide.
Anwar, 60, dismissed the accusation, made in a police complaint filed by the 23-year-old aide on Saturday, as "a complete fabrication." The sodomy allegation is "clearly a desperate attempt by the ... regime to arrest the movement of the Malaysian people toward freedom, democracy and justice," Anwar said in a written statement early Sunday.
Hours later, he had moved to the Turkish Embassy amid concerns about being arrested and also because he had received anonymous death threats, said party official Azmin Ali. "The [Turkish] ambassador agreed to ensure his safety," Azmin said. Embassy officials could not immediately be contacted. In Ankara, Foreign Ministry officials were also unable to comment on the situation immediately.
"He is there for protection but he is not seeking political asylum," Tian Chua, the spokesman for Anwar's political party, said by telephone. "We just want to make sure that he is secure."
The dramatic developments that began to unfold a little before midnight Saturday will likely further roil Malaysian politics, which have been in turmoil since March 8 elections handed the governing National Front coalition its worst-ever result.
A three-party opposition coalition led by Anwar made spectacular gains, winning an unprecedented 82 seats in the 222-member Parliament and the legislatures of five states. Anwar has threatened to engineer defections from the National Front to bring down the government by September.
Anwar's wife, Azizah Ismail, said her husband was "safe and sound" for now, but described the sodomy accusation as an attempt at "political murder."
More than 50 supporters gathered outside the Turkish Embassy anticipating a visit by Anwar's family. Police blocked roads in the area in an apparent security precaution.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi insisted the government was not responsible for the accusation, saying there was no conspiracy "to cause [Anwar] trouble or harass him or raise such issues to undermine him." Asked about Anwar's denial, Abdullah said it "was common for an accused person" to claim he was innocent.
Anwar, a charismatic politician, was once part of the ruling establishment, rising to the post of deputy prime minister and finance minister in then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's government in the 1990s. But it all unraveled in 1998 when he was accused of sodomizing his driver and abusing his power to cover up the deed. Mahathir fired him from the government and had him jailed. Anwar was subsequently convicted on both charges but Malaysia's highest court overturned the sodomy conviction and freed him in 2004.