Hospitalised Anwar says he'll be returned to jail within days

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 (AFP) - Jailed Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim, who has been in hospital for over two months with acute back pain, says the government plans to move him back to a prison cell "in a matter of days."
Doctors have said the former deputy premier needs spinal surgery.

Anwar's family and lawyers, in a statement Monday, said Home Affairs Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi "has instructed the prisons department to expedite his return to prison even before the operation has been performed on him."

The statement said a detention room at Sungai Buloh jail, which is smaller than Anwar's previous cell, was currently being fitted with a shower and toilet to receive him.

Lawyer Sankara Nair said the information came from Anwar himself but he could not reveal the source of it.

"Anwar has information that the work is being done now and his transfer is imminent -- in a matter of days," Nair told AFP.

Last week the home ministry said Anwar would not be returned to jail against medical advice. It was not known if doctors had yet been consulted on any move.

"We as lawyers and family deeply regret Abdullah's actions which appear personally and politically motivated," the statement said.

It said Anwar was in severe pain and any move would prolong his "torture."

Anwar is serving a total of 15 years after being convicted in separate trials of abuse of power and sodomy.

He says his former mentor, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, orchestrated a conspiracy to frame him because he was seen as a political threat. The government denies any plot.

Anwar has been in Kuala Lumpur General Hospital since November 25. His family and lawyers say he needs specialist endoscopic microsurgery which should be conducted overseas in a dedicated spinal centre.

Abdullah said recently that according to expert opinion the surgery could be performed in Malaysia.

Anwar's lawyers have sought permission to bring in a German spinal specialist to examine him but Nair said Monday that no reply had been received so far.

Anwar, in a statement through his lawyers last week, said close aides of Abdullah inspected his cell last month in apparent preparation for returning him to jail.

A home ministry spokesman confirmed at the time that the aides visited the jail and saw Anwar's cell. He described it as a general visit to the prison not specifically related to Anwar.

"It is up to the doctors. We will not force him to go back if the doctors say no," the ministry spokesman said at the time.

Monday's statement from the family said Anwar had an "inalienable right" to choose what kind of surgery he should undergo.

It said he was not disparaging local medical skills but there were no dedicated spinal surgeons in Malaysia able to conduct such microsurgery.