Sun 20 Sep 98 - 19:01 GMT
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 (AFP) - Malaysian police
arrested ousted deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim Sunday after
he addressed a huge gathering of tens of thousands of supporters calling on Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to
Police also fired tear gas at thousands of
people staging a breakaway march at Mahathir's official residence, blocking
off roads and charging the protestors with shields and batons until they dispersed.
With police helicopters buzzing overhead, hundreds
of commandos wearing balaclavas and flak jackets stormed
Anwar's nearby home after he returned from the massive rally at the National Mosque and an adjacent square -- right
opposite an Anglican church which Britain's Queen Elizabeth had just visited.
After violently breaking up a news conference,
police gave Anwar an hour to pack his clothes, said one of his
lawyers, Pawancheek Marica.
Clutching an unidentified child, Anwar smiled
and waved as he stepped inside an unmarked van surrounded by
special security forces using bamboo poles to fend off the crush of supporters shouting "Reformasi! Reformasi!"
His wife Azizah, another woman and several other children were in the van as it headed off into the night.
Azizah later returned to the house to say that
Anwar had been separated from the family and hauled off to federal
police headquarters with her and several lawyers following in a separate vehicle. But they were not allowed to see
"I'm glad my husband was arrested as a hero," she said.
But Azizah added that she was concerned about
the possible reaction of Anwar supporters. "I have to calm them
down," she said. "The masses are highly charged. I told them now we have to channel it into something productive."
Kuala Lumpur police chief Kamarudin Ali, appearing
on national television, said Anwar was being detained to help
with police investigations.
Kamarudin said the former finance minister
would be formally charged at a magistrate's court Monday morning on
several counts including disturbing public harmony, holding illegal gatherings and vandalism.
"Police have taken action to restore order and the situation is under control and has returned to normal," he added.
But Pawancheek, Anwar's lawyer, said police
were accusing Anwar of sodomy -- apparently referring to two men
sentenced to six month's jail after being found guilty of having sex with Anwar in lightning court appearances on
The two men, an adopted brother of Anwar and
a Moslem intellectual from Pakistan, were detained last week as
part of a series of arrests involving acquaintances of the former deputy prime minister who was also finance minister.
Anwar, who was summarily dismissed by Mahathir
on September 2 and later kicked out of the ruling party, has been
subjected to a torrent of police allegations ranging from sexual misconduct to sedition.
He had since embarked on a nationwide speaking
tour to defend himself, attracting tens of thousands of supporters as
he accused the government of a high-level conspiracy and called on Mahathir to step down.
Addresing the crowd at the mosque earlier,
Anwar led the crowd chanting "Mahathir should resign" and said he was
ready to be spend years behind bars like South African President Nelson Mandela to fight for justice if necessary.
"We must have freedom and justice for all Malaysians.
Malaysians have waited long enough. Enough is enough," he
told an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 supporters before they headed to the Merdeka Square for an even larger
Anwar, who was to travel to Mahathir's own
constituency of Kumbang Pasu in northern Malaysia Tuesday, was later
hoisted on to the shoulders of supporters before jumping on the back of a motorcycle for a 15-minute ride back
The 73-year-old Mahathir, who has been in office
for 17 years and is now Asia's oldest serving leader, said Sunday
that Anwar was "a man in desperation who will make all kinds of accusations" against him.
"In his desperation he has to come out to make
some proposals. He has been dismissed, he cannot dismiss me. It
seems entirely logical to ask for my resignation," the prime minister said.
In a speech to thousands of supporters in the
southern town of Batu Pahat on Saturday night, Anwar likened
Mahathir to former Indonesian president Suharto and late Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos, both toppled by
"Mahathir is like a dictator, people are afraid
of him," Anwar told some 10,000 people in the predominantly Chinese
town in southern Johore state.
"Do you want to resign now or do you want to end up like Suharto and Marcos?," he asked.