Malaysia issues int'l alert for missing detective

Anwar was due to address a rally on Sunday night protesting rising food and fuel prices amid the rising political tensions.

Malaysia issues int'l alert for missing detective

Malaysia has issued an international alert for a missing private eye after he made, and abruptly retracted, allegations about the deputy prime minister's links to a high-profile murder case, police said on Sunday.

The detective, Balasubramaniam Perumal, disappeared along with his wife and three children on Friday after retracting an allegation that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak had sexual relations with the murder victim.

The Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibu, 28, was shot in the head twice before her body was blown up with C4 explosives in October 2006. Najib's political adviser, Abdul Razak Baginda, and two state bodyguards are on trial for the murder.

"Police in the country have been put on alert to find him and we have informed Interpol ... as well as police in neighboring countries," National Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) chief Bakri Zinin told a news conference on Sunday.

"I give a guarantee of his safety, if he comes to meet us, and he is free to bring a lawyer," Bakri said.

Najib has repeatedly denied he ever had a sexual relationship with the Mongolian, or had conspired to cover up her murder, allegations made on Thursday by Balasubramaniam, who was working for Abdul Razak at the time of the killing.

The detective's bombshell was the latest twist in the high-stakes political melodrama -- featuring allegations of sex, murder, lies and sodomy -- that has gripped the nation since a March 8 general election handed a resurgent opposition led by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim unprecedented gains.

Opposition rally

Najib and Anwar are competing to become Malaysia's next prime minister with control over a political patronage system that dominates the economy. Both are battling accusations that could ruin their political careers.

Anwar was due to address a rally on Sunday night protesting rising food and fuel prices amid the rising political tensions. Nearly 10,000 people had gathered for the rally at a soccer stadium outside Kuala Lumpur by early afternoon.

Police have declared the event an illegal gathering but are allowing it to proceed as long as the rally is confined to the stadium grounds, officials said.

"We are happy we don't see a heavy presence of the security apparatus, which is a normal scene in our gatherings," said Hatta Ramli, spokesman for the protest. "We're used to having helicopters hovering above us all the time."

The rally, due to end at midnight (1600 GMT), had a convivial atmosphere with most people wearing red T-shirts, the colour of the protest movement, and vendors doing a brisk business.

"Oil has gone up. Goods have gone up. People are left with less money," said Faridah Jantan, 48, mother of five children. "This weekend we will take up the fight. We want a more democratic nation."

The government raised fuel prices 41 percent last month, adding to the unpopularity of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's government after opposition won power in five of Malaysia's states and came within 30 seats of taking over the 222-member national parliament.

Anwar said he was on the verge of winning that majority in parliament by wooing defectors from the ruling coalition when a 23-year-old aide suddenly accused him of sodomy, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

CID chief Bakri told the Sunday news conference his office has taken statements from 18 witnesses, including medical doctors who examined the accuser, but have yet to summon Anwar.

"It's very delicate. Give us time. We have to find the truth first."

Anwar said on Thursday the sodomy allegations surfaced because leading government figures feared he would use the detective's statements in the Altantuya case in his drive to lead the opposition to power for the first time in Malaysia.


Reuters

Last Mod: 06 Temmuz 2008, 12:42
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