Former minister arrested over sodomy allegations

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been arrested and will be detained overnight following allegations of sodomy made last month.

It was reported in June that the 60-year-old politician was accused of sodomy by his assistant and had temporarily sought refuge in the Turkish embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

He had been due to make a statement over the claims, but was earlier driven to a police station and then taken to hospital for a medical examination.

Ibrahim denies the allegations, which mirror the case that saw him locked up for six years in 1998, but police are not giving him bail.

“They are keeping him tonight,” lawyer Sankara Nair told the AFP news agency.

“Their excuse is they need to take further statements.”

Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is a crime in Malaysia, which has a Muslim majority, and is punishable by 20 years imprisonment.

A statement on Ibrahim’s website said as he entered his neighbourhood, ten police cars, half unmarked, forced Ibrahim’s entourage to stop.

Armed police wearing balaclavas took him to the Kuala Lumpur Police Contingent Headquarters.

“The manner in which they surrounded our vehicle, it put a lot of fear and intimidation into us,” Nair told the BBC.

Ibrahim’s lawyers were not permitted to travel with him to the police station.

“We have to record his statement to complete our investigations,” Deputy National Police chief Ismail Omar told the BBC.

“Once the facts are in, we can make a decision.”

Ibrahim has called on his supporters to remain calm after large demonstrations were held when he was arrested in 1998, which BBC correspondent Robin Brant, in Kuala Lumpur, believes will happen again.

Ibrahim was jailed in 1998 after his former boss, Mahathir Mohammad, then prime minister of Malaysia, sacked him in order to stop his rise to power, claiming he is gay.

Human rights groups said that the charges that Ibrahim had sex with his brother, his driver and his speechwriter are untrue, and were used to smear him to stop him from succeeding to the prime ministerial role.

He was initially given 15 years for sodomy and corruption but the ruling was overturned in 2004.

“I doubt Anwar will be released tonight as this is a very serious allegation and there are a lot of things to be investigated and the police must carry this out fully,” Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar told AFP.