Malaysia condemns U.S. resolution supporting Anwar retrial


KUALA LUMPUR, AFP

A Malaysian minister on Thursday criticized an appeal by U.S. legislators for a new trial “under fair and transparent procedures” for jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.

The resolution by seven members of the House of Representatives was unacceptable and politically motivated, said Rais Yatim, a minister responsible for legal affairs.

Local newspapers said the resolution, submitted on Oct. 27, called on the Malaysian government to give Anwar due process “either by offering him a new trial under fair and transparent procedures or by dismissing all charges against him.”

It said his corruption and sodomy trials were marred by serious irregularities.

“We are steadfast in our stand that a judicial decision made by a court of law in Malaysia stands on its own merit,” Rais was quoted by the official Bernama news agency as saying.

He said the resolution, “being a political move, could be taken as a political finding.”

The Malaysian government has reacted angrily to attempts by Anwar’s supporters to publicize his plight overseas. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysians who criticized their leaders overseas were “traitors” because they could deter foreign investment.

Last week the Singapore Straits Times said Anwar’s backers had engaged Washington-based public relations firm Janus Meritt Strategy in August under a four-month retainer fee for US$50,000. It did not say who the backers were.

Officials from the National Justice Party, headed by Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, said they were not involved in hiring the firm.

Anwar was sacked by Mahathir on September 2, 1998 and arrested 18 days later following mass anti government rallies.

In April 1999 Anwar was jailed for six years for abuse of power and in August was imprisoned for nine years for sodomy. The sentences will run consecutively, meaning he will be in jail until 2014 unless granted remission.

Anwar says Mahathir orchestrated a conspiracy to frame him because he was seen as a political threat. The government denies any plot.

Legislator Jamaluddin Jarjis said parliamentary backbench members would introduce a motion next week condemning the U.S. resolution.

“We regard it as another interference by the West, like in Indonesia and the West Bank, an arrogance akin to colonialism although Malaysia is an independent country,” he said.

Jamaluddin said the congressmen should look at their own backyard, for instance their own legal system which he alleged discriminated against black people, before attempting to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

But Fadzil Noor, president of the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia, said that in a globalized world everyone had a right to express their opinions.

“If we can oppose the actions of Israel (against Palestinians), why should we dispute this?” he said.

Wan Azizah said the congressmen were fighting for freedom and human rights.