Jailed Malaysian leader Anwar Ibrahim walks free after royal pardon

Glen Norman
May 17, 2018

Reformist Anwar Ibrahim yesterday declared a "new dawn for Malaysia" after his release from prison paved the way for a return to national politics as presumptive successor to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad following a stunning election upset.

Anwar, 70, was convicted of sodomy in 2015 in a case he said was aimed at crushing his alliance, which was making gains against Malaysia's long-ruling coalition government. His friend, Mohammed Asseri, 25, told Arab News that "during Najib's era, Malaysia was well-known in the media with stories about 1MDB".

Anwar told a news conference at his home on Wednesday that he had forgiven Mahathir, who was a pugnacious and uncompromising prime minister for 22 years from 1981. "The entire spectrum of Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, have stood by the principles of democracy and freedom".

Anwar's release sets up a tantalising reunion with his nemesis-turned-ally Mahathir.

Anwar joined forces with his old ally-turned-foe-turned ally, 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, to oust scandal-tainted former premier Najib Razak.

Since his defeat, there has been speculation that he and his wife might try to flee the country as the new government has vowed to investigate the massive financial scandal.


Anwar Ibrahim's lawyer says the Malaysian king has granted him a full pardon and all past convictions have been expunged.

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Once Mahathir's protégé, Najib denied any wrongdoing.

Anwar also stated that he would support the leadership of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, despite the latter being the reason for his political downfall in 1998.

Anwar is said to reach Padang Timur at 10pm and he is expected to give his first speech at 10.45pm tonight after spending more than a decade behind bars.

"I don't need to serve in the Cabinet for now", he said. He was later arrested and jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption. "I can not complain very much", he said.

PKR Youth Chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said the Pakatan Harapan government now had a big responsibility to implement Reformasi now that they held power at the federal level.


Mahathir has not yet moved into the prime minister's office or residence.

"The hope is that Anwar and Mahathir will find a way to work together especially during this period of transition", said Rashaad Ali, research analyst with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

He rose quickly, eventually becoming deputy prime minister and Mahathir's presumed successor.

At one point he was seen in court with a black eye, and prosecutors brought out what they said was a semen-stained mattress as they alleged Mr Ibrahim had enjoyed sex with two male aides.

Anwar sought a royal pardon on the grounds of "miscarriage of justice", which would reverse his conviction and make him eligible to actively participate in politics.

But the relationship between the two politicians hasn't always been so friendly, as Mr Mahathir got Mr Anwar sacked and arrested 20 years ago with the same accusations of sodomy that put him in jail in 2015.


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