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Malaysian minister Azmin denies link to gay sex video

Economic Affairs Minister condemns 'gutter politics'

KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysia's Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali yesterday denied links to a sex video purporting to show him with a man, saying the allegation was an attempt to end his political career.

Mr Azmin, a senior minister in Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Cabinet, is seen as a possible prime ministerial candidate and rival to Mr Anwar Ibrahim, to whom Dr Mahathir has agreed to hand over power. Mr Anwar is chief of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) while Mr Azmin is his deputy.

The video purporting to show Mr Azmin circulated via WhatsApp this week. Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia.

"I categorically deny this vicious libel upon me," Mr Azmin said in a statement. "This is nothing but a nefarious plot to assassinate my reputation and character in an attempt to destroy my political career."

Yesterday morning, a man confessed to being in the video and alleged his partner was Mr Azmin.

That man, Mr Muhammad Haziq Abdul Aziz, who is the senior private secretary to Deputy Primary Industries and Commodities Minister Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, said Mr Azmin was not fit to be a leader.

"I, Haziq Aziz, (am) making a sworn confession that I am the individual with (the minister) in the video which went viral yesterday.

"The video was taken without my permission on May 11 during the Sandakan by-election in (his) room at Hotel Four Points."

But Mr Azmin condemned the move as gutter politics and added it has "no place in this era of New Malaysia".

He said: "I will not submit to these cowardly acts and heinous attempts to distract the public from the pressing concerns of the nation and the successes of the Economic Affairs Ministry in the planning and implementation of national development policies that are sustainable and inclusive."

Mr Azmin said he has instructed his lawyers to take legal action against those behind the video.

Barely two hours after his statement came out, more videos and photographs were released to the media and politicians.

Mr Anwar Ibrahim, the president of PKR, yesterday issued a statement on the sex scandal.

Reading from a statement after the monthly PKR political bureau meeting yesterday, Mr Anwar said the party rejects the "gutter politics" that the country is witnessing today.

"The country must focus on issues of economic and social development, and not be dragged into a dirty cauldron," he said.

"Keadilan hopes that Datuk Seri Azmin and his family will remain calm and patient in facing this big challenge," he added.

Mr Anwar's comments on the issue were closely-watched amid some suspicion that the PKR factional infighting involving his group and Mr Azmin's group led to the issuing of the sex videos.

Mr Anwar said PKR supports the investigations by police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission into the matter.

He said: "I thought what I experienced should be the last. Unfortunately this trend seems to continue, and it's deplorable, it's sickening and I do not in any way understand why this should continue..."

Mr Anwar's political career was hit by allegations of sexual misconduct in 1998. - THE STAR, THE STRAITS TIMES, REUTERS

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