Malaysia's jailed leader-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim has been released from custody

Screenshot/Channel News Asia
  • Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been released from jail.
  • The pardons board met on Wednesday morning, giving a reprieve to the long-time opposition leader who was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to five years in jail, which was considered to be a politically-motivated charge.
  • Anwar teamed up with his former enemy former 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 has been 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 himoutside, 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 on Wednesday evening.

It is believed Malaysia’s king, Sultan Muhammad V, will officially pardon Anwar on Wednesday after meeting at the palace with members of the pardons board and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

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.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia welcomes the pardon after following Anwar’s trial and incarceration “closely.”

“We are pleased that the royal pardon will allow Anwar to be reunited with his family in time for Ramadan and again fully participate in Malaysia’s politics and governance. Anwar has much to contribute to Malaysia,” Bishop said.

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.

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