Malaysia’s Anwar released after royal pardon
Prominent Malaysian politician and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has been released from prison following a royal pardon, paving the way for his return to national politics.
Anwar’s freedom on Wednesday marked the first major success of Malaysia’s newly-elected governing coalition, Pakatan Harapan, which is led by 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad and which swept to power after a stunning election victory last week.
Smiling and looking upbeat, Anwar walked out of a Kuala Lumpur hospital where he had undergone surgery for a shoulder problem, waving to a crowd of journalists before leaving in a car — headed for the National Palace — without making any remarks.
“It’s exhilarating to see him released; this was clearly a miscarriage of justice,” said Anwar’s lawyer Sankara Nair, referring to his conviction on sodomy charges. “This pardon has completely cleared his name at last, but it is a unique pardon; there has never been one like this in Malaysia.”
It was his first taste of freedom since 2014, following a prison sentence widely perceived as politically motivated and a maneuver by then prime minister Najib Razak to get rid of a feared political rival who had run against him and had reportedly won the popular vote in the 2013 general elections.
Guaranteeing the full royal pardon of Anwar was a crucial part of a pact between Mahathir and Anwar’s opposition faction, which were united by a shared desire to topple Najib.
Under the same agreement, Mahathir will only serve as prime minister for two years, before passing power to Anwar. It was a pledge the newly-elected prime minister reiterated on the eve of Anwar’s release.
“Maybe lasting one or two years, I will be the prime minister. I will play a role in the background even when I step down,” said Mahathir, who himself previously served as Malaysia’s premier and head of ruling party UMNO for 22 years.