Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was barred entry to Japan over the weekend because he did not obtain a visa, an official with the Japanese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said Tuesday.
Anwar had arrived at Narita International Airport on a personal visit early Sunday but was turned away by immigration officials, who cited his controversial 1999 conviction for sodomy and corruption.
Anwar speculated that “hidden hands” were behind the refusal, and his party questioned whether Malaysia’s ruling coalition had played a role.
But embassy official Tomoko Nagai said that while Tokyo last year lifted a requirement that Malaysians obtain visas to enter the country, Anwar is still required to have one due to his past criminal record.
She said Anwar did not apply for a visa, as he had for previous visits.
“Japan could not consider a special arrangement for Anwar since we did not receive any prior application for a visa,” she said.
Anwar could not immediately be reached for comment.
The opposition politician was once heir-apparent to the leadership of Malaysia’s ruling coalition but his trajectory took a hit over sodomy and corruption charges — viewed by many as a setup by his political enemies. He was jailed in 1999 for six years.
Anwar said he was “puzzled and shocked” over being denied entry to the country and demanded explanations from the Japanese and Malaysian governments. Foreign Minister Anifah Aman on Monday dismissed any Malaysian government involvement.
Anwar said he had been invited by a Japanese NGO to deliver a speech on religious harmony.