Anwar set to sue Mahathir for defamation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 September, 2005, 12:00am

The former deputy leader is still being accused of sodomy, despite being cleared

Political opponents are preparing at least two multimillion-dollar defamation suits against former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad for repeatedly accusing his one-time deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, of sodomy, despite the fact his conviction on the charge was overturned.

Mr Anwar's lawyers said they had been instructed to prepare a defamation suit against Dr Mahathir. Leading members of Mr Anwar's National Justice Party are also demanding legal redress in a separate action.

Justice Party officials say the sodomy allegations levelled at Mr Anwar are damaging and hamper their drive to put him at centre stage of mainstream politics.

'Failing to sue him [Dr Mahathir] would start tongues wagging. People would wonder why Anwar is letting Dr Mahathir off the hook,' said influential writer and political analyst Raja Petra Kamaruddin, a strident Anwar supporter.

'Anwar needs to sink his sword into Dr Mahathir's heart ... that is the only way for him to show Dr Mahathir for what he is, a barefaced liar.'

Once a step away from Malaysia's highest office, Mr Anwar was sacked from government in 1998 after a falling-out with then prime minister Dr Mahathir - his mentor of many years and the man who had groomed him for the top job.

He was later charged with sodomy and corruption offences, which he said were trumped up, and spent six years in jail. He was released last year after one of his convictions was quashed.

Lawyers have not specified the amount of damages in either of the planned cases, but a court last month awarded Mr Anwar M$4.5 million ($9.25 million) in a defamation case against the author of a book that destroyed his career.

In 50 Reasons why Anwar cannot be PM, author Khalid Jafri claimed Mr Anwar had sodomised his wife's driver. The ruling last month boosted Mr Anwar's political standing, especially after the judge declared Mr Anwar was a victim of a conspiracy.

But in a controversial speech at a human rights conference last week that took aim at Britain and the US for leading the war in Iraq, Dr Mahathir again accused Mr Anwar of sodomy.

Dr Mahathir said Mr Anwar was sacked because as a homosexual man, he was unfit to succeed him as prime minister.

'Anwar and his family are extremely upset with Dr Mahathir's recent statements, considering that the Federal Court has acquitted Anwar of sodomy and further, another court had held Anwar is a victim of political conspiracy,' said Mr Anwar's lawyer, Sankara Nair.

A senior Justice Party leader, Azmin Ali, said he would separately sue Dr Mahathir for conspiring against him and Mr Anwar.

Dr Mahathir's most recent accusations against Mr Anwar have also upset rights activists, who say his statements are homophobic, violate human rights and encourage violence.