Anwar not victim of ‘chronic or acute’ poisoning

Anwar not victim of ‘chronic or acute’ poisoning

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct. 5 Kyodo

Malaysia’s ousted Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim did not suffer from chronic or acute arsenic poisoning according to tests conducted by a panel of medical experts, the High Court said Tuesday.

Judge Arifin Jaka read out a medical report dated Monday that was prepared by a 12-member panel which concluded Anwar “does not show any clinical sign of chronic or acute arsenic poisoning.”

“The urine, hair and nail specimens showed an arsenic level that was not beyond the permissible range,” the report said.

But the report also said that despite extensive tests the experts can still not identify the causes of various other symptoms that Anwar exhibits, such as weight and hair loss, numbness in the fingers, headaches and stomachaches, hypertension and lung problems.

The team, led by Khalid Abdul Kadir, head of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital, has examined the possibility of AIDS, kidney failure, diabetes, anemia, tuberculosis and cancer, but the tests have all proved negative.

The report therefore recommended that Anwar’s health continue to be monitored.

Anwar said Sept. 10 that there had been an attempt to poison him with arsenic while in prison, sparking new street protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and an independent inquiry into the allegations.

Anwar’s family had secretly sent a sample of his urine under an assumed name to a private laboratory in Australia in August which indicated an excessive level of arsenic in the sample.

Far from quelling the uproar by showing concern, Mahathir accused Anwar of false allegations aimed at gaining political mileage.

He also questioned whether the urine sample the family sent was really Anwar’s.

On Monday, police even threatened to “take action” against Anwar for lodging a “false report” should their investigation prove that his claim is baseless.

Anwar’s arsenic scare caused his sodomy trial to be postponed as the court ordered he be placed in the university hospital to confirm his claim and ensure he is fit to attend court.

After 25 days in hospital, Anwar was finally discharged Monday and sent back to prison where he is currently serving a six-year jail sentence, having been found guilty on charges of corruption.

Anwar’s trial resumed Tuesday after the hospital certified him fit. He is now on trial for allegedly sodomizing his family’s former chauffeur, a charge that carries a maximum jail sentence of 20 years with possible flogging.

Anwar’s lawyers expressed dissatisfaction with the medical report, calling it “inconclusive” and saying it could have been drawn up by the government.

Lawyer Christopher Fernando insisted the court call the panel experts to testify about the report, which he said left many questions unanswered, such as why the symptoms exhibited by Anwar still persist.

He also said the stated conclusion that Anwar did not suffer chronic or acute poisoning does not mean he was not poisoned at all.

The judge dismissed the defense’s application and said that since Anwar has been certified fit to attend court, the sodomy trial should proceed.

Attorney General Mohtar Abdullah, leading the prosecution, accused the defense of trying to “dig up bits and pieces of the report to sensationalize it out of context.”

He said the report should be left to the police, who are investigating Anwar’s claim, and not to the court to probe further.

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