Malaysian opposition leader is freed and pardoned

Minnie Murray
May 16, 2018

"He's in good health", said Anwar's lawyer Shankaran Nair, who noted that the prison sentence was "unjust", which was why the pardon was approved.

Anwar's political triumphs and legal tribulations have riveted and appalled Malaysians since the 1990s, when he soared to national power as a talented deputy prime minister but then fell spectacularly, only to rise from the ashes in the opposition. He was later arrested and jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption.

Smiling and looking spry in a tailored black suit, Anwar emerged from a Kuala Lumpur hospital where he had undergone surgery for a shoulder problem, giving a thumbs-up to a crowd of journalists before leaving in a convoy of cars without making any public comment.

Anwar has cast a long shadow over Malaysian politics for decades.

"Today, I am very happy", she said. Both times, he and his supporters have said the charges were politically motivated.

A gifted natural politician and witty orator, Anwar rose quickly, heading various ministries, including the finance portfolio starting in 1991, while reinventing himself as a reformist who was praised in the West.

Analysts say his release could cause tensions in the new government led by Mahathir Mohamad, who after leading the four-party alliance in the election campaign has become the world's oldest leader.

"I've told Tun Mahathir, I don't need to serve in the cabinet for now", Anwar said, using an honorific for the prime minister.

Mahathir, with whom Anwar joined forces to win last Wednesday's election, was at the palace to greet him.

Anwar, 70, was set to be released from jail at the beginning of June, but without the royal pardon he would have faced a five year ban in politics.

Dr Mahathir said it was up to the police to call Najib to facilitate the investigations into the 1MDB.

Mr Anwar said he had forgiven Mr Mahathir and stressed he would give full support to the new government, though not immediately be part of it.

Smiling and waving to supporters on Wednesday, Anwar, 70, was surrounded by his family, lawyers and prison guards before getting into a auto and driving to the palace for an audience with the king.

He added: "It's exhilarating to see him released, this was clearly a miscarriage of justice".

The royal palace said in a statement that the monarch had given Anwar a full pardon following advice from the Pardons Board.

"Mahathir has proven his tenacity, accepted his past limitations, apologised and sacrificed his time and energy to raise the dignity of the people", Anwar wrote to his supporters on May 8.

"I expect him to play the same role as the leaders of the other three parties".

Mahathir, 92, was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday. Mahathir has vowed to step aside and allow Anwar to assume the premiership once he has been pardoned and elected to parliament.

The volatile relationship between Anwar and Mahathir, from friends to foes to allies, has dominated Malaysia's political landscape for more than three decades and is central to the future of the alliance.

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