Kuala Lumpur - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said on Monday he was “puzzled and shocked” at being barred entry to Japan, as his party questioned whether Malaysia's ruling coalition was behind the move.
Anwar said he arrived at Narita International Airport on a personal visit early on Sunday and was told by immigration authorities he was barred because of his 1999 conviction for sodomy and corruption.
The controversial conviction, which cast the then-rising political star out of Malaysia's longtime ruling party and into jail for six years, is viewed by many as a set-up by Anwar's enemies.
“I am puzzled and shocked by the incident,” Anwar, 66, told AFP.
“It is not the way for a democratic country to treat an opposition political leader and a veteran politician.”
He called on Malaysia's government to “probe this incident and lodge a strong protest against Tokyo.”
Anwar said he has visited Japan on three occasions since 2006 without incident. He said Japanese immigration officials told him vaguely they were responding to a recent “report” involving him.
Anwar said he was invited by a Japanese NGO to deliver a speech on religious harmony. He returned to Malaysia on Sunday.
In a blog posting, Anwar said “hidden hands may be at work here” and demanded an explanation from Malaysia's foreign ministry.
“The barring of Anwar Ibrahim from entering Japan raises serious questions on the involvement of this (the Malaysian) government,” Anwar's People's Justice Party said in a separate statement.
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman later told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the Malaysian government had nothing to do with the matter and that Japan's border controls were its own affair.
Anwar said Japan's embassy in Malaysia told him before the trip there would be no problem entering the country. Embassy officials declined comment.
Malaysia's ruling coalition has steadily lost ground in parliament since Anwar officially became opposition leader in 2008.
The opposition accuses the coalition of a long-running campaign of harassment and false charges designed to smear Anwar.
Shortly after a historic strong 2008 opposition showing, he faced new charges of illicit sex with a former male aide. Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
A court acquitted Anwar in 2012 but the government has appealed.
Later in 2012 he was charged over an anti-government protest but a court dismissed the case earlier this month.