Malaysia opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim is immediately released from jail and given full royal pardon

17-May-2018 Intellasia | AP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The opposition leader and reformist icon Anwar Ibrahim has been issued a full royal pardon and released from detention with immediate effect in Malaysia, following a stunning election where the ruling party of six decades was thrown out at the ballot box. Anwar, 70, waved to supporters and media as he left hospital on Wednesday, where he was recovering from a minor surgery. He had been serving his second stint in jail since 2015 on charges of sodomy, a conviction he says was politically motivated as he challenged the authority of now-ousted prime minister Najib Razak.

He is now expected to take over as the country’s prime minister from election victor Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir, who will soon turn 93, campaigned on the basis of releasing and empowering Anwar, though the handover is unlikely to happen immediately. Mahathir, who first led the country as an authoritarian prime minister for 22 years until 2003, said on Tuesday that he planned to run the country for “one to two years” to fix Malaysia’s financial problems. Analysts have previously told The Independent that this would likely work in Anwar’s favour in the long run, but there remains uncertainty over how the two will work together in the meantime.

Once a rising star in the ruling party, Anwar was first convicted of homosexual sodomy and corruption after a power struggle with Mahathir himself back in 1998.

Anwar and his supporters have long denied the sodomy allegations, saying they were concocted to destroy his political career, and point to the fact that Malaysia’s strict sodomy laws are rarely enforced in practice.

Anwar Ibrahim greets supporters after his release from detention in hospital in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday (AFP).

Rather than give up, Anwar worked from his prison cell to forge a new opposition alliance by ending the two-decade feud with Mahathir a gamble that paid off when the alliance won the 9 May polls, ousting a government that had become increasingly unpopular following a corruption scandal and hastily-imposed sales tax.

The royal palace said in a statement that the country’s constitutional monarch had given Anwar a full pardon following advice from the Pardons Board. He still needs to contest a by-election to become a member of parliament before he can replace Mahathir.

Anwar’s wife Wan Azisah Wan Ismail, who is the new deputy prime minister and the first woman to hold that title in Malaysia’s history, has said there was no rush for her husband to take over.

She said time is needed for the country’s “healing process” after the first transition of power in six decades, and that Anwar should recover fully from recent surgery before jumping back to politics.

Anwar was expected to appear at a rally to thank his supporters later on Wednesday.



Category: Malaysia

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