Malaysia: date set for release of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim

Former deputy PM, jailed on sodomy charges in 2015, to receive royal pardon this week

Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, is due to be released from prison on Tuesday, his daughter has said.

Anwar is serving a second prison sentence for sodomy, which many believe was politically motivated and the result of judicial pressure brought by the country’s ousted prime minister, Najib Razak.

The election this week of Mahathir Mohamad, which gave the opposition its first win in 61 years, has paved the way for Anwar to be given a full royal pardon.

Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah, said the paperwork for the pardon was being processed on the grounds of a miscarriage of justice.

Mahathir, who at 92 is the world’s oldest leader, ran for election on the agreement that, if the opposition won he would secure a royal pardon for Anwar and then step aside to let him take over as prime minister.

Anwar’s release will mark another chapter in his colourful and fraught relationship with Mahatir.

When Mahathir first served as prime minister, between 1981 and 2003, Anwar was his protege and seen as his natural successor. In 1999, however, when it seemed he was getting too powerful, Mahathir had him jailed on sodomy charges.

Anwar was released from jail in 2004 and became a powerful figure in the opposition, running against Najib in the 2013 election. In 2015, however, he was reconvicted of sodomy in a case that human rights groups criticised as unjust and politically motivated.

The relationship between Anwar and Mahathir had remained bitter until this year, when in a bid to remove Najib, Mahathir joined the opposition to run as leader in the election. He is now making good on the promise making Anwar’s release among his first priorities as prime minister.

It is unclear how long Mahathir will remain prime minister after Anwar’s release. The opposition has said it will be two years before he hands over power, because Anwar will need to win a byelection first.


Hannah Ellis-Petersen

The GuardianTramp

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