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Asia

Malaysian opposition leader denounces lack of free speech

Anwar Ibrahim, the head of Malaysia's opposition People's Justice Party has been in Europe this week, promoting his cause and discussing Malaysian politics. In Brussels, he gave an exclusive interview to Deutsche Welle.

Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim says the sodomy charges against him are trumped up

The former Deputy Prime Minister says the sodomy charges against him are trumped up

Anwar Ibrahim says his dream is to bring prosperity, democracy and free speech to Malaysia.

He told Deutsche Welle what his opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat would do if it came to power: "We're committed to the reform agenda of free media, an independent judiciary, an economic policy that would be able to encourage investments and at the same time to cater for the welfare of the majority, housing, health, education, and an effective program eradicating poverty, and of course to wiping out corruption because it is getting to be so endemic in Malaysia."

International business leaders say censorship is hampering economic growth

International business leaders say censorship is hampering economic growth

"We will do it in phases. Of course, what is most urgent is to clean up the government from corruption, and we can save billions of dollars to give back to the people," he said.

Opposition gained support in 2008 polls

In Malaysia’s 2008 general elections, the opposition quadrupled its seats in parliament. It also took control of five out of 13 states.

However, in July of the same year, Anwar was arrested amid allegations that he had sodomized a former male aide.

He has always maintained that the sodomy charges against him were invented to prevent him and his party from gaining more support.

In 2004, similar charges against him were dismissed as being trumped up with the case being thrown out after Anwar had already spent six years in jail.

British business tycoon Richard Branson has criticized the ongoing trial against Anwar

British business tycoon Richard Branson has criticized the ongoing trial against Anwar

"Judiciary under thumbs of executive"

However, Anwar’s recent appeal to have these current charges thrown out as well was not successful. "The court of appeal rejected my application without even listening to our submissions on the substantive argument, using very flimsy technical arguments. That shows that the judiciary is not independent and is clearly working under the thumbs of the executive."

This week, British tycoon Richard Branson said that the ongoing trial was discouraging investors from coming to Malaysia.

"Richard Branson has expressed very strongly, after going through and understanding the case, how malicious the charge proffered against me is. He realizes it is untenable because it shows that the system is blatantly corrupt and abused by the political leadership," Anwar said.

Damper on economic growth

Anwar thought that the government was ignoring calls by "business community leaders, renowned scholars, leaders in Indonesia and elsewhere, and civil society leaders" to drop the case against him because it considers him a "threat", despite the fact that it "desperately wants investment."

Malaysia's mainstream newspapers and broadcasters are closely linked with the ruling coalition

Malaysia's mainstream newspapers and broadcasters are closely linked with the ruling coalition

On Wednesday, the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, lashed out against censorship in Malaysia; days after a controversial political cartoonist had been arrested, saying it was "not an effective strategy" in terms of economic growth.

The next general election in Malaysia has to be held in 2013 at the latest. Anwar hopes his legal troubles will be over by then; but if he is convicted, he faces up to 20 years in jail.

Author: Anne Thomas
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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