KUALA LUMPUR (AFX) - Former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim said he has been 'completely vindicated' after being awarded 4.5 mln rgt in damages for libel over a book that triggered his 1998 sacking.
The author of '50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Be PM', Khalid Jafri, has already been sentenced to jail for accusing Anwar of sodomy, corruption and an extra-marital affair that resulted in an illegitimate daughter.
'The defendants' main purpose in publishing the book was to destroy the plaintiff's reputation and political career,' said High Court judge Mohamad Hishamudin Mohamad Yunus.
The judge noted the book was distributed to delegates at the general assembly of the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in May 1998.
'The defendants and others who conspired with the defendants achieve their purpose,' he said. 'The plaintiff's political career was ruined as a result of the publication of the book.'
'Faced with such a vicious and venomous public attack on his integrity, launched by the defendants in cahoots with others, the public humiliation and ridicule and the pain and mental distress suffered by the plaintiff and his family must be beyond description.'
A visibly happy and relaxed Anwar embraced his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail outside the court and greeted supporters, Agence France-Presse reported.
'At last there is a judgement which finally takes full cognizance of the conspiracy to destroy my political career which has always been my position from day one,' he said.
'The judgement clears my name. I have been completely vindicated.'
Anwar said he will discuss with his family and lawyers how to disburse the money to the needy.
'The quantum is not important, it's a matter of honor of truth and my vindication,' he said.
The award of 4.5 mln rgt included 4.0 mln for defamation, 500,000 rgt for 'conspiracy to injure', plus all legal costs.
The judge said awards of this size are unusual in Malaysia, but that it reflects the gravity of the charges against Anwar, his high position at the time, and the lack of apology from the defendants 'who until today remain defiant'.
Anwar, heir apparent to then-premier Mahathir Mohamad, was sacked in Sept 1998 and was subsequently convicted on corruption and sodomy charges which he said were engineered to prevent him challenging Mahathir for the leadership.
He was released in September last year after the sodomy charges were overturned.
Khalid, 65, was found guilty last month of writing false information in his book. The court ruled that the child in question was the legitimate offspring of Anwar's former private secretary, Mohamad Azmin Ali.
Khalid was freed on bail pending an appeal. However, early this month he was admitted to hospital for treatment for diabetes. His right leg was amputated and he was put on a life support machine.
His wife Rozihan Abdul Ghani was named as the second defendant in the libel case, in her role as the book's publisher.
Khalid's lawyers said they have not yet decided whether to appeal, but Anwar's legal representatives said they expect one to be lodged.
The suit is the second Anwar has brought to court this month.
In early August he successfully won an apology from the former police chief who beat him after his arrest, as well as undisclosed damages, in a result he hailed as a step forward for human rights in Malaysia.
Anwar is barred from holding political office until 2008 under regulations governing convicted criminals.