Malaysia sex video saga: I will not be manipulated, says Mahathir

Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad has promised to step down before the next general election as agreed by the Pakatan Harapan coalition before it won last year's polls. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad, in his strongest rebuke yet over what he views as a political ploy behind viral gay sex videos implicating Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, has made clear he will not aid the conspirators behind the video to achieve their ends.

In a terse post on his personal blog on Tuesday (July 23), the Prime Minister repeated his claim that the clips of two men engaging in sexual acts were circulated "clearly for political purposes, specifically to block the success of a particular individual".

"The action that was hoped to be taken after its release is the removal of the targeted individual. This action can be taken by me because I am in power," he wrote in his blog Chedet.

"I am unwilling to be manipulated, much less by schemers with ill-intent using dirty politics."

Despite not naming anyone, Tun Dr Mahathir's statement makes clear that Mr Azmin's position in Cabinet is safe amid the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president's feud with party president Anwar Ibrahim.

Dr Mahathir wrote: "My religion bars me from spying to find flaws in others. What has been done is worse than spying."

Speaking to reporters later, he clarified that "I am not defending him (Azmin). I am saying dirty politics like that will not trap me to be a part of it".

"Obviously somebody is trying to make use of me to achieve their purpose. This is not the usual video that you see before. This is purposely created in order to achieve a certain nasty objective... and I am not going to be an agent in making that plan a success," he added.

Police have said facial recognition of Mr Azmin in the videos that were circulated in early June was negative.

But national police chief Hamid Bador said the footage was released by an "evil alliance" whose mastermind is a leader of a political party, a claim coming just days after Datuk Seri Anwar's political secretary, Mr Farhash Mubarak, was remanded for a week in relation to the investigations.

Mr Azmin and party allies such as Selangor chief minister Amirudin Shari have said they know the identity of the leader. The latter made a veiled reference on Monday night to sodomy accusations against Mr Anwar in 1998 that led to the formation of PKR, saying those responsible went through a "dark period that is the basis of our cause".

Mr Anwar has dismissed allegations of his involvement, and his wife, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, responded Tuesday that Mr Azmin and Mr Amirudin should bring their information to the police.

Asked Tuesday if he knew the identity of the mastermind, PM Mahathir replied: "I am not the investigator."

Inspector General Hamid also denied Tuesday any political pressure on investigations, nor that any such interference would influence the police. The force has arrested 11 people, including several PKR members, in the probe over the last 10 days.

Mr Farhash and sacked PKR grassroots youth leader Haziq Aziz - who claimed he and Mr Azmin were the two men in the videos - were released from remand Tuesday.

"I believe there is a political conspiracy against Anwar Ibrahim. If the IGP has any credibility, go bring Azmin Ali in," Mr Farhash said to cheers of supporters who had gathered to welcome his release.

Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia, and Mr Farhash, who is also Perak PKR chief, led the crowd of about 100 in chants of "Anwar Ibrahim for prime minister, Azmin semburit (sodomy)".

The 94-year-old premier has promised to step down before the next general election, as agreed by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition before it won last year's polls.

While Mr Anwar is the named successor, Dr Mahathir, his former nemesis, has also said that whoever takes over must have the support of the majority, a statement seen to open the door to alternatives such as Mr Azmin.

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