Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysian opposition leader, has been formally charged with sodomising a former male aide. He pleaded not guilty and called the accusation “malicious”, when he appeared on court in Kuala Lumpur. The allegation is politically motivated, said Mr Ibrahim.
Ten years ago, he was jailed after facing similar accusations and since his release he has been active in politics, even though until recently he was not able to officially run in elections.
Amid chaotic scenes, he arrived at the main court in Kuala Lumpur, with dozens of supporters gathering as he emerged from his car. Some of them were shouting “reformasi”, the slogan of the movement founded by Mr Ibrahim.
In Malaysia, sodomy is illegal, and Anwar Ibrahim, 60, charged with “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
He was released on bail after Thursday’s hearing.
According to Mr Ibrahim, the claims are aimed at derailing his political revival, as this year, he led the new opposition coalition to strong gains in a general election.
In 1998, after he had been sacked as deputy prime minister, he faced the same accusations as he does now.
Ten years ago, he was convicted and the guilty verdict was overturned after he served six years.
A recent opinion poll suggests that few Malaysians believe Mr Anwar committed the crime, says the BBC’s Robin Grant in Kuala Lumpur.
Abdullah Badawi, the country’s prime minister, has denied Anwar Ibrahim’s accusation, saying he had orchestrated a campaign against him.
After a ban on his seeking public office expired, Mr Ibrahim prepared to fight for a seat in parliament, when the charges was made.