Court denies observer status to foreign groups
Mon, 02 Nov 1998 03:54:19 GMT
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 (AFP) - A Malaysian judge on Monday denied official observer status to
foreign human rights and legal groups monitoring the trial of deputy
premier Anwar Ibrahim.
"The presence of these people would amount to interference in the
powers and functions conferred on me by the constitution," Justice
Augustine Paul told a packed courtroom.
Representatives of the groups were effectively allowed only to attend
as members of the public, raising doubts about their ability fully to
monitor the proceedings due to limited seats in the court.
Karpal Singh, a prominent lawyer from the opposition Democratic Action
Party, said an application for a watching brief by the Malaysian Bar
Council (the national association of lawyers) giving it special status
in court was also rejected.
He annnounced the judge's decision after emerging from the courthouse, where Anwar's trial
on four corruption charges opened with procedural matters.
"The application for a watching brief has been disallowed and also
admittance for observer status," he said.
"Observer status means they can sit down and observe the proceedings. If you are
given a right to hold a watching brief, you can even throw the court questions and so
forth," he said.
Asked whether foreign human rights and legal group representatives
would be able to remain inside the court, he said: "Now there is also
a doubt whether they can sit in there."
The opening of the trial was marked by a crush of journalists, lawyers
and foreign observers seeking seats in the packed court. Only 50 seats
were available in the gallery to people not directly involved in the
"We have not been treated well," said the vice president of the bar
council, R. R. Cheluarajah.
Council secretary Mah Weng-Kwai protested that "the administration of justice in any
country would mean a court, a prosecution and a bar.
"Here you are effectively shutting out the bar. We represent a very
large membership. Members of the bar have a right to know what is
happening. Members of the public have a right to know what is
happening," he said.
From Singapore ST
2nd Nov 1998
52 witnesses for Anwar's trial today
Former DPM Anwar Ibrahim faces four corruption charges as Malaysia's
'trial of the century' begins today
By BRENDAN PEREIRA
IN KUALA LUMPUR
MALAYSIA'S trial of the century begins today, when former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar
Ibrahim faces four charges of corrupt practices.
The prosecution will produce 52 witnesses in the hope of persuading
High Court judge Datuk Augustine Paul that Anwar is guilty as charged.
If found guilty, he faces a maximum jail term of 20 years for each of
the charges. Conviction, therefore, could mean a long stay behind bars
for Anwar, 51, who already faces six other charges, one of corruption
and five of sodomy.
Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah said on Saturday that Anwar would face additional
charges of sexual misconduct after the courts had disposed of the existing 10 charges.
He said that the A-G's Chambers had prima facie evidence related to
sexual misconduct under the Penal Code, and Women and Girls Protection
Today's case will open with the prosecution calling its first witness,
possibly the former director of Special Branch, Datuk Said Awang, to
the stand. He is alleged to have been directed by Anwar to obtain a
statement from Mr Azizan and Ms Ummi, clearing Anwar of any
The first day in court is going to be anything but smooth. Delays are
likely to be caused by applications and objections.
The defence has already signalled that it is unhappy with the court
circular over-ruling a decision by Justice Paul for proceedings to be
in English. It is also keen to have international organisations be
given observer status by the court.
The case will be heard between today and Nov 14. It will resume on Nov 23, after the
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Security will be tight around the Federal Court building to prevent
disruption of the trial by Anwar's supporters, who have taken to the
streets over the past two months to protest against his sacking.
What happens inside the courtroom is likely to have far-reaching
The Group Editor-in-Chief of the New Straits Times, Datuk Abdul Kadir Jasin, said Prime
Minister Mahathir Mohamad will be judged on his decision to sack Anwar.
Umno will be judged on its position to sack Anwar.
The media will be judged on the treatment of the sacking, his arrest
under the Internal Security Act and his alleged beating under the
police. The police will be judged on their investigation of the case.
"Yet if we believe in the rule of law, we have nothing to fear from
the trial," he wrote in his Other Thots column yesterday.
From Sydney Morning Herald
2nd Nov 1998
Security force on high alert for Anwar trial
By CRAIG SKEHAN, Herald Correspondent in Kuala Lumpur
A massive security operation is planned for the trial starting today
of the sacked Malaysian deputy prime minister Mr Anwar Ibrahim, with authorities warning
of a crackdown on any protests.
Truckloads of riot police equipped with tear gas and backed by water
cannon will surround the courthouse, and helicopters are on standby
"We are ready for anything that might happen," said the
Inspector-General of Police, Rahim Noor.
On Saturday, more than 1,000 anti-government demonstrators gathered near a mosque in Kuala
Lumpur's Malay working-class stronghold of Kampong Baru. However, there was no repeat of a
violent clash there a week ago.
Mr Anwar will plead not guilty today to four charges that he acted
corruptly last year by directing police investigators to obtain
statements refuting sodomy allegations against him.
A charge of interference in a bribery case involving a member of Mr
Anwar's staff and four charges of sodomy are to be heard later.
The Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, was reported yesterday as saying that
further charges might be laid over claims that Mr Anwar had had sex with prostitutes.
Mr Anwar has alleged that the police special branch is part of a
high-level political conspiracy which resulted from fears that he was
going to mount a leadership challenge against the Prime Minister, Dr
If convicted on the first set of four charges, Mr Anwar, who is
represented by some of Malaysia's leading lawyers, can go to the Court of Appeal, and
ultimately to the country's highest judicial body, the Federal Court.
The Government issued a series of warnings at the weekend to
discourage people from joining protests planned to coincide with Mr
The government-controlled Sunday newspaper reported that children
could be "sent to welfare homes within 24 hours" if their parents took
them to illegal political reform rallies or demonstrations.
This followed a warning by a senior police officer that parents risked
prosecution under the Child Protection Act.
Ms Elizabeth Wong, from the human rights group Suaram, said: "It is a
particularly dirty tactic designed to scare ordinary families from
attending peaceful political rallies. It is sheer intimidation."
Members of the military have been threatened with disciplinary action
if they support the political reform movement launched after Mr
Anwar's sacking on September 2 and subsequent arrest.
The Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali, said
the heads of all government departments had been directed to ensure
that civil servants did not get involved in "anti-Government" groups.
The Kuala Lumpur police chief, Kamaruddin Ali, said the organisers of
anti-Government rallies were being hunted and a number of suspected
ringleaders had been arrested.
"Police are questioning them and we hope to get some leads soon on the others being
sought," the police chief said.
Dr Mahathir said at the weekend that dissidents wanted to use public
protests to topple the Government so that Mr Anwar did not face trial.
"They are hoping that the Government will fall and, if the Government
falls, then there will be no trial and all those things he has been
charged with will not be heard."