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Malaysia's Anwar says sexual assault claim is 'politics at its worst'

By Reuters | Dec 5th 2019 | 2 min read
Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim speaks during the Singapore Summit in Singapore.

Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s prime-minister-in-waiting, denied on Thursday that he had sexually assaulted a former male aide, describing the accusation as “politics at its worst” days before his ruling party’s annual congress.

On Wednesday, a statement issued by Anwar’s former aide, Muhammed Yusoff Rawther, accused the former deputy premier of attempting to force him to have sex in September last year.

Reuters could not immediately reach Muhammed Yusoff, but he read out the allegations in a Facebook Live broadcast on Wednesday. His statement was made to a law officer, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

Anwar has spent nearly a decade in jail on two separate counts of sodomy and for corruption, charges that he and his supporters maintain were aimed at ending his political career.

“I heard about this a month ago. It’s not new, attempts to try and influence and bribe or whatever, but this is politics at its worst,” Anwar said on Thursday.

“Our congress is in two days, so you should anticipate all these sorts of things.”

The latest allegations come at a time when Anwar looks to end a feud with Azmin Ali, his deputy in the People’s Justice Party (PKR) and a potential challenger for the premiership promised to Anwar by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Azmin also has been the subject of a gay sex scandal, linked to a series of videos circulated among politicians and journalists in June, allegedly showing him and another man having sex. Azmin has denied that he is one of the men in the videos.

Homosexuality is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, and carries penalties of up to 20 years in jail and whipping if convicted.

Anwar and Azmin on Wednesday shared a photo on their social media pages of them seated next to each other and discussing what they described as measures to promote party unity.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Anwar said the allegations by Muhammed Yusoff were baseless and aimed at scuttling his planned takeover of the premiership.

Anwar was freed of his second sodomy conviction following a royal pardon in May 2018, after Mahathir - who was prime minister when Anwar was jailed the first time for sodomy in 2000 - led the opposition to an unprecedented election victory earlier that month.

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