KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was charged Tuesday, May 22, for his part in a rally for fair elections last month, in a case he denounced as another government attempt to remove him from politics.
Anwar and two other defendants from his opposition party were charged with violating a controversial new law governing public gatherings and a court order that banned the April 28 rally from the centre of the capital Kuala Lumpur.
The charge comes just four months after Anwar was acquitted of sodomy in a long-running trial that the charismatic leader has said was engineered by the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak to remove him as a political threat.
“We will fight. This is political intimidation,” the 64-year-old Anwar told reporters as he left the court in the capital.
“Najib is afraid to face me in elections. I want to tell Najib not to use the courts and the flawed (assembly) law passed in parliament to intimidate political opponents.”
Anwar’s lawyers and a top Election Commission official have confirmed that a conviction on the new charge would strip Anwar of his eligibility to stand for election.
Najib must call national elections by early next year and many observers expect a tight contest after the Anwar-led opposition handed the ruling coalition its worst poll showing in its history in 2008 polls.
Tens of thousands of Malaysians marched in last month’s rally organized by electoral-reform group Bersih 2.0, demanding changes to an election system they say is rigged in the ruling coalition’s favor. – Agence France-Presse