Malaysia's Anwar quizzed over sex assault claims

Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim at the party's general assembly in Melaka on Dec 7, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leader Anwar Ibrahim was on Thursday (Dec 12) questioned by police over allegations he sexually assaulted a male former aide, the latest such scandal to hit the veteran politician's career.

Datuk Seri Anwar told AFP he was quizzed at national police headquarters over the claims by Mr Muhammed Yusoff Rawther, which he has vehemently denied.

The lawmaker, seen as the likely successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, spent almost a decade in jail after being convicted of sodomising a young male aide, allegations that supporters say were aimed at ruining his political career.

Sex between men remains illegal under colonial-era laws in the Muslim-majority country.

Mr Anwar was released from prison and pardoned last year after his alliance stormed to a shock victory against a corruption-plagued coalition that had ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1957.

But political tensions have escalated sharply, with Mr Anwar's nemesis-turned-ally Mahathir refusing to say exactly when he will hand over power, and vicious infighting erupting in PKR.

The latest allegations emerged last week - just before the start of PKR's annual congress - with Mr Yusoff claiming that Mr Anwar assaulted him and attempted to force him to have sex.

Mr Yusoff was called in for questioning by police this week. On Thursday, Mr Anwar said he was questioned first at police headquarters for about an hour, before officers completed the process at his residence.

"I hope the probe will be completed quickly," he told AFP.

Mr Anwar was first thrown in jail in the 1990s after being sacked from his position as deputy prime minister by Tun Dr Mahathir, who was in his first stint as premier at the time, and their stormy relationship has loomed over Malaysian politics ever since.

In 2015, he was jailed for a second time on sodomy charges and only released after last year's elections.

Dr Mahathir and Mr Anwar reconciled ahead of the polls in a bid to oust the scandal-mired Barisan Nasional coalition of Najib Razak.

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