Malaysia’s opposition said it would mount a rally of thousands of black-clad supporters today outside the court where leader Anwar Ibrahim is to go on trial for sodomy.
Shamsul Iskandar Mohammad Akin, youth chief of Anwar’s Keadilan party, said he was aiming to gather 5,000 supporters for a march to the court complex, despite warnings from the government against creating a disturbance.
“We want to have a gathering to show our support for Anwar and to tell the world that these allegations made against him are false and baseless,” he said.
“The government is attacking him because they do not want to see his reform agenda for Malaysia to succeed,” he said.
Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was sacked and jailed on separate sodomy and corruption charges a decade ago, has rejected the new allegations made by a former aide as a conspiracy to derail his plan to topple the government.
In 2004 the previous sodomy conviction was overturned, allowing Anwar to go free after six years in jail and build an opposition alliance that won a third of parliamentary seats last year in an unprecedented performance.
“Many of the people who were responsible for what happened to Anwar in 1998 are still in power and are involved in this case and are carrying out their vendetta against him,” Shamsul said
Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has reportedly warned protesters not to create a disturbance at the Kuala Lumpur court complex where the trial will be held.
“If they create chaos and go against the law [to] disrupt security and the judiciary, the authorities will certainly react,” he said, according to news Web site Malaysiakini.
Police were tight-lipped on the number of personnel to be deployed at the court, and whether they would draft in the riot police and water cannon, which have been deployed at other politically sensitive trials.
“As long as things are peaceful, there should be no issue,” deputy national police chief Ismail Omar said.
“We are prepared for the situation,” he said, declining to elaborate on the size of the police presence.