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Malaysia condemns Western nations for criticizing Anwar verdict

SHARE Malaysia condemns Western nations for criticizing Anwar verdict

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia criticized Western nations and international rights groups Saturday for condemning the sodomy conviction against a former deputy prime minister.

Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the government issued sharply worded statements to the United States, the European Union and other nations that questioned Malaysia's judicial impartiality in the case of Anwar Ibrahim and criticized Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's administration, the national news agency Bernama said.

"This is not a political case. The case against Anwar Ibrahim is criminal in nature," Syed Hamid said, noting that Malaysia's justice system closely resembled those of other countries.

"We respect bilateral relationships but we cannot accept this interference and (we) strongly protest against this," he said.

Malaysia has come under widespread condemnation from Western nations after a high court judge sentenced Anwar on Tuesday to nine years in prison for sodomy, adding to an earlier six-year sentence for corruption.

The United Nations, the U.S. State Department, Australia and the World Bank have all expressed concern over the manner in which the trial was conducted and the harshness of the verdict.

The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists also condemned the sentence, describing it as "wholly disproportionate."

More than 100 activists gathered Saturday to urge Malaysia's Human Rights Commission to take action against the judicial system.

Shouting "Reformasi," the battle cry for political reform, the opposition leaders and members of several nongovernmental groups shouted their support for Anwar and demanded authorities release him.

"This is a political crime perpetrated by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad," said Lokman Nor Adam, an official from the opposition National Justice Party. "Mahathir wants to ensure that Anwar sits in jail and dies there."