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Malaysian Police Nab Ex-Official

September 21, 1998

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Malaysia’s sacked deputy prime minister was arrested late Sunday after thousands of his supporters marched to the prime minister’s house and demanded the ouster of Asia’s longest-serving leader.

Hours later, riot police fired tear gas and water cannon Monday to disperse 2,000 supporters of the ousted leader, Anwar Ibrahim, in the second day of street clashes.

There were some injuries among the demonstrators, who had rallied outside a downtown courthouse.

On Sunday, hundreds of Ibrahim’s allies shouted angrily, ``God is great!″ and ``Long live Anwar!″ shaking their fists as police led him away from the house where he had conducted almost two weeks of protest rallies against the 17-year rule of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The violence affected a state visit by Queen Elizabeth II, who worshipped at a church not far from a mass opposition rally Sunday and was to meet with Mahathir on Monday.

Anwar, once Mahathir’s handpicked successor, is now his principal foe. His arrest appeared to be an attempt to thwart the kind of large-scale protests earlier this year that led to the ouster of Indonesia’s President Suharto.

Mahathir, 72, became Asia’s longest-serving leader after Suharto was forced out in May after 32 years by violent protests against alleged government corruption and a severe economic crisis.

The official Bernama news agency quoted national police chief Abdul Rahim Noor as saying that Anwar could be held under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite imprisonment without trial for those deemed a threat to national security.

Abdul refused to say where Anwar was being held Monday. But an aide to Anwar’s wife said the family had been told that he was taken overnight to a maximum security detention camp.

Anwar was led away Sunday from his home and pushed into a van by police carrying assault rifles and firing tear gas to break up the crowd.

Helmeted special reserve police, armed with assault rifles, parked jeeps in front of Anwar’s house and blocked off roads in the well-heeled neighborhood to prevent his supporters from marching after the van.

Also arrested was Roslan Kassim, a northern state youth-wing leader from the ruling party.

Matthew Moore, an Australian journalist, said when police came through the door, ``They jumped on me, screamed at me and knocked me down.″ He said they demanded his tape recorder and notebook at gunpoint.

The violence Sunday broke out more than two hours after an unprecedented rally at the capital’s central Merdeka (Freedom) Square, where Anwar led 35,000 people in chanting demands for Mahathir’s resignation. The square was the site of Malaysia’s declaration of independence from Britain in 1957.

The demonstrators then marched to the front gate of the prime minister’s official residence. Police wearing face shields fired tear gas and water cannons at them.

Smoke filled the highway in front of the residence as the police fired at least three volleys. Thousands of people wrapped their faces in cloths and struggled back toward the center of town.

Anwar, 51, was fired by Mahathir on Sept. 2 from his posts as deputy prime minister and finance minister. He was arrested under a law banning sodomy, said one of three lawyers who accompanied him.

Sunday’s newspapers carried banner-headlined stories containing explicit details of Anwar’s alleged sodomy offenses, allegedly confessed by Anwar’s adopted brother and a friend in a court hearing on Saturday. Both had been denied access to their relatives or lawyers during their police detention.

Sodomy is a crime in this conservative Muslim country, and both men were sentenced to six months in prison.

Anwar has vehemently denied the charges, saying they were cooked up by Mahathir, who fears Anwar’s growing popularity and any challenge to his rule.

Anwar also charged that defendants had been tortured into confessing they committed sodomy with him. Mahathir denied the allegation.

Kuala Lumpur Police Chief Kamarudin Ali told the national news agency Bernama late Sunday that Anwar was being detained to aid police investigations into several crimes, including public disturbance, illegal assembly, criminal use of force and rioting. Kamarudin said Roslan had been arrested in connection with the Merdeka Square rally.

``Police have taken action to restore order and the situation is under control,″ the police chief said.

Police had previously said they were investigating allegations against Anwar of treason, sexual misconduct and abuse of power. Anwar had predicted he would be arrested at the end of the Commonwealth Games, which close Monday.

Anwar’s appearance in the center of the capital, at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s visit, was the culmination of a week of nationwide rallies in which he has called for Mahathir’s resignation and accused the leader of corruption.

Sunday’s demonstration was unprecedented: Opposition parties have routinely been denied permission to hold rallies.

``Malaysians have waited a long time. We have given Dr. Mahathir enough time. Enough is enough,″ Anwar told the crowd.

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