Sunday October 31, 2004

Anwar arrives home to tight security

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Malaysia's most prominent dissident politician, former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, arrived home to a restrained welcome amid tight security on Sunday, after an overseas trip to receive medical treatment.
Hundreds of supporters chanted "Reformasi", the battle cry of Anwar's political reform movement, and threw flowers at him as he arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport despite police attempts to prevent a rally forming, including roadblocks.
Anwar was sacked from government and jailed on what he called trumped-up charges in the late 1990s after he fell out with then leader Mahathir Mohamad and led anti-government street protests.
He was released from almost six years' prison last month and flew to Germany for treatment for a debilitating back illness which had kept him confined to a wheelchair for years.
Anwar's return home has been eagerly awaited by his supporters, who hope his freedom will strengthen the "Reformasi" movement which suffered a setback at general elections in March.
Mahathir's successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, stole its thunder at the polls, winning a landslide victory on a pledge to clean up corruption -- a key plank of Anwar's political platform.
Anwar, looking tired but much fitter after his treatment at a specialist clinic in Munich, walked into the airport's arrival hall, arm in arm with his wife, to a noisy welcome. He came home via Saudi Arabia where he had performed a minor pilgrimage.
Supporters, kept behind a barrier and watched by dozens of police with truncheons, shook his hand and presented him with a garland of orange and red flowers before he left by car. Anwar stood up through the vehicle's sunroof to wave goodbye.
Anwar was due to hold a news conference later on Sunday at his home in a leafy suburb of Kuala Lumpur, but he is widely expected to keep a relatively low profile and study the new political landscape before mapping out a political comeback.
Anwar is barred from holding party or parliamentary office until April 2008 because of a conviction for corruption. He had also been jailed for sodomy but a court quashed this conviction in early September, opening the way for his surprise release.
A senior aide said this month that Anwar would spend the next few weeks catching up with family and friends during the remainder of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"