Malaysian police to question Anwar Ibrahim over sexual assault claim

This marks the third time Mr Anwar Ibrahim has been accused of indecent acts by a former male employee. He has been jailed twice over the past two decades for sodomy, charges which he has denied and maintained were politically motivated. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian police will be recording statements from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim after his former assistant accused the politician of sexual assault.

"Statements from Anwar Ibrahim and several related witnesses will be taken as soon as appropriate appointment times are set," Criminal Investigation Department (CID) director Huzir Mohamed said on Wednesday (Dec 11).

However, Datuk Huzir did not disclose the number or the identities of the other witnesses.

In response, Datuk Seri Anwar said he was grateful to police for speeding up investigations into the "latest defamatory allegations" against him.

"I would like to stress that I am ready to give my statement to the police immediately to assist in the investigation," Reuters reported him as saying in a statement.

Police are investigating the case under section 354 of Malaysia's Penal Code for assault or use of criminal force to a person with intent to outrage modesty.

Last Wednesday, Mr Muhammed Yusoff Rawther, 26, described at a press conference an incident involving Mr Anwar as "vile, insidious, morally repugnant and criminal in nature", and asserting that it "has left me traumatised and disturbed to an extent".

He also referred to his statutory declaration, which he said contained details of the alleged incident. The statutory declaration has been given to the police.

Mr Yusoff spent seven hours to have his statement recorded by the authorities on Monday following a police report he had lodged last Saturday.

Mr Anwar, 72, has denied the allegations, calling it "baseless slander" and a trick to degrade his image ahead of his party's national congress last week and the country's leadership transition process.

PKR is the largest party within Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, which had agreed to Mr Anwar taking over as prime minister from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. However, no date has been specified for the handover.

A police report has been lodged against Mr Yusoff, with Mr Anwar's lawyer, Mr Ramkarpal Singh, issuing a letter of demand for him to retract his claims.

Mr Yusoff did not do so and is being represented by a lawyer who counts Dr Mahathir among his clients.

The lawyer, Mr Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, denied a conflict of interest in taking on a case against Dr Mahathir's planned successor.

"The prime minister is still my client but that does not mean I should not take on cases just because they involve his ministers or people in his administration," Mr Mohamed Haniff told Reuters.

"I did not speak to (Dr Mahathir) before taking on this case, but we did talk about it afterwards. He was surprised but he understood."

The alleged sexual incident allegedly took place at Mr Anwar's home in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur, in October last year. Mr Anwar has said he was busy campaigning for his parliamentary seat in Port Dickson and had a packed schedule that day.

This marks the third time he has been accused of indecent acts by a former male employee.

He has been imprisoned twice over the past two decades for sodomy, charges which he has consistently denied and maintained were politically motivated.

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