KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim denied on Monday that he was the man filmed having sex with an unidentified woman, describing the allegation as a “malicious slander” designed to discredit him politically.
The charges could tarnish the reputation of the former deputy premier, who is already involved in a protracted legal battle involving allegations that he had sex with a former male aide, and undermine the opposition’s efforts to stem a recent slide in its popularity.
In the 30-minute video footage which was shown to a group of journalists in a hotel in the Malaysian capital on Monday, a couple was seen having sex in a hotel room on Feb 21, local newspaper The Star reported.
The report did not identify Anwar by name but described the man as a “high profile member of parliament” and there have been suggestions that the man caught on tape resembled the former deputy prime minister.
“This latest malicious slander in the form of a video allegedly linked to me is aimed at discrediting and embarrassing me and my family,” said the opposition leader, who was flanked by his wife and other senior party officials.
The video has not been more widely released and its veracity could not be determined.
The accusation comes at a time when the opposition is gearing up for possible snap elections and the charge, though unproven, could damage Anwar’s political career in a mainly Muslim country where extra-marital sex and homosexual relations are frowned upon.
The next general election is not due until 2013 but many expect Prime Minister Najib Razak to call a snap poll late this year as the ruling coalition attempts to capitalise on strong economic growth.
A one-time rising star of Malaysian politics, Anwar was sacked as Deputy Prime Minister in 1998 and charged and convicted of sodomy. He spent six years in prison before the country’s top court overturned the conviction in 2004.
Upon his release, Anwar led an opposition grouping which includes an Islamist party and a mostly ethnic Chinese, secular party to record gains in the last general election in 2008.
He was arrested later the same year and charged again in court on another sodomy accusation involving a former male aide, a charge he has denied. The government has promised that Anwar would receive a fair trial.
“They have tried for 13 years, but our party members and the Malaysian public will not be duped into believing such scurrilous attacks,” Anwar said.
(Editing by Liau Y-Sing and Daniel Magnowski)