But making the police look bad may have suited Mahathir even more than it suited Anwar. The bruises and welts on the face of the popular reformer, who appeared in court Tuesday to face widely disputed charges of sexual misconduct, might have been an unsubtle warning to opposition protesters to stay off the streets: "The cynical view is that Anwar's beating sends the message that if this can happen to the deputy prime minister, then it can happen to you," says TIME correspondent Tim Larimer. "Even though people are stunned and angry, that may not be enough to get the protests going again, because they know what the police are capable of."
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed said Wednesday that the imprisoned opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim beat himself up in order to make the police look bad -- but on Thursday he ordered an investigation into the beating anyway. "The police cannot harm their detainees in the course of their interrogation," Mahathir told the New Straits Times. "We can't accept this and we will undertake full investigations."