Rabu, 16 Juli 2008

Malaysia's Anwar released on bail

Malaysian police have released opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on bail after he was arrested over allegations of sodomy.

His lawyers said he had left custody, but could still face charges.

He spent a night in detention having been arrested by police for questioning over the allegations, on which he had been due to make a statement.

Mr Anwar urged his supporters to remain calm. He denies the allegations, saying they are politically-motivated.

The former deputy prime minister is expected to hold a news conference at 1400 local time (0600 GMT).

His arrest is likely to exacerbate the political tensions that have emerged since the opposition's unprecedented gains in the general election of March 2008.

The 60-year-old has been in a tense stand-off with police since a former male aide accused him of sodomy two weeks ago.

Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is a crime in Malaysia and is punishable by 20 years' imprisonment in the Muslim-majority country.

Intense pressure

Mr Anwar's arrest will have been seen as provocative by Malaysian opposition groups, says the BBC's Robin Brant in Kuala Lumpur.

When he was arrested on similar charges 10 years ago, his supporters staged large demonstrations. They had promised to do the same this time but, so far, no big protests have taken place, our correspondent says.

Only a handful of supporters gathered outside the police headquarters where he was held overnight, Reuters reports, despite calls by the opposition for a show of support.

Mr Anwar has given a statement to police but refused to provide a DNA sample, the AFP news agency quotes his lawyers as saying.

Under the bail conditions, he is required to report back to police on 18 August.

Mr Anwar has said the allegations are part of a conspiracy to try to derail his efforts to bring down the government after his significant gains in the general election.

The sodomy accusations came only weeks after Mr Anwar said he was in a position to launch a challenge to the ruling coalition, with the help of government defectors.

The opposition leader made his claim at a time when Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is already under intense pressure to resign over poor election results and high fuel prices.

Mr Abdullah has said he will leave office in 2010, defying pressure to step down this December.


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