Malaysia’s jailed leader-in-waiting has been released from custody and given a full royal pardon

Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim gestures as he leaves a hospital where he is receiving treatment, ahead of an audience with Malaysia's King, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 16, 2018.

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Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim gestures as he leaves a hospital where he is receiving treatment, ahead of an audience with Malaysia’s King, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 16, 2018.
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REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

 

  • Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been pardoned and released from jail.
  • The long-time opposition leader convicted of sodomy and sentenced to five years in jail, was pardoned on Wednesday on the basis of “miscarriage of justice.”
  • Anwar teamed up with his former enemy Mahathir Mohamad to oust scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak, and their opposition alliance won last week’s election.
  • Mahathir will stay in power until the administration’s mid-term before handing over power to Anwar.

Malaysia’s longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been pardoned and released from custody after serving three years in jail.

Anwar was released from Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital, where he has been recovering from shoulder surgery. A crowd was waiting for him outside, and excited shouts could be heard from press as they tried to photograph Anwar.

He will now meet with the king at the national palace and then speak to supporters at a rally in the evening.

Malaysia’s king, Sultan Muhammad V, officially pardoned Anwar on Wednesday after meeting with members of the pardons board and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The full royal pardon was made on the basis of a “miscarriage of justice.”

Mahathir, who led an opposition alliance to its first victory in 60 years on Wednesday, said on Friday the king had agreed to the pardon. The pardon is necessary for Anwar to avoid a five-year ban on political activity.

Anwar was jailed in 2015 after being convicted of sodomy and sentenced to five years jail. He was previously the deputy prime minister under Mahatir, who led the country for 22 years until 2003. Mahathir fired Anwar in 1998 and days after leading a march of tens of thousands to demand the prime minister’s resignation, Anwar was beaten and arrested.

He was found guilty of corruption in 1999 and given a five years jail, and the following year was also found guilty of sodomy. He was released from prison in 2004 and faced further allegations, charges, and appeals for years before being convicted in 2015 on what human rights groups consider to be a politically-motivated charge.

Despite past hostilities between Anwar and Mahathir, the two agreed to work together to oust former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, campaigned alongside Mahathir and was sworn in on Thursday as Malaysia’s first deputy prime minister.

Mahathir said in the past he will stand aside for Anwar as soon as he is elected as an MP, but the agreement appears to have shifted. Mahathir said he will initially stay in the role of prime minister for “one to two years,” and Wan Azizah confirmed that a transition of power will occur around the administration’s mid-term.

Until then, Anwar will first need to be elected into parliament. There are no by-elections planned but it is thought Wan Azizah may step aside for Anwar.