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Thursday, August 18, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia's Anwar wins libel case

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia's Anwar wins libel case Malaysia's Anwar wins libel case
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia's High Court has awarded former deputy leader Anwar Ibrahim $1.2m in damages over a pamphlet that hastened his downfall in 1998.

The pamphlet, Fifty Reasons Why Anwar Ibrahim Cannot Be Prime Minister, included allegations that Mr Anwar was corrupt and a homosexual.

When Mr Anwar launched this libel suit he was still deputy prime minister.

In the time it's taken to settle the case, he was sacked, and imprisoned for six years for corruption and sodomy.

The latter conviction was eventually overturned and he was released from jail a year ago.

After seven years, the High Court has finally ruled that the claims in the pamphlet were very vicious and very serious.

The damages, said the judge, Hishamuddin Yunus, were unusually high to reflect the gravity of the allegations and the lack of an apology.

Hand strengthened

The author, Khalid Jafri, is critically ill in a Kuala Lumpur hospital.

He is currently on bail pending his appeal against a one-year jail term for writing the leaflet.

The pamphlet was widely circulated at the height of the political and economic turmoil that gripped Malaysia in 1998, just as some of Mr Anwar's supporters started to press for him to replace the then premier, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The allegations were seized on by Mr Anwar's opponents and are believed to have contributed to his arrest and prosecution.

Mr Anwar is currently barred from holding office until 2008 but this ruling can only strengthen his hand.
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