Malaysia's Anwar walks free after pardon, meets Mahathir

Ann Santiago
May 17, 2018

Anwar was freed in 2004 but in 2015, he was jailed again - for five years - for sodomizing a former aide, a charge he and his supporters describe as a politically motivated attempt by Najib to end his career.

The pardon allows Anwar to re-enter active politics immediately, but it was not clear what his role in government would be. At a press conference held at his house in the afternoon, Anwar said the pardon was unconditional.

"The entire spectrum of Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, have stood by the principles of democracy and freedom".

After being sworn in as Malaysia's seventh prime minister last Thursday, Mahathir moved swiftly to name new finance, home affairs and defence ministers but has not appointed a full cabinet amid horse trading among his four-party alliance for posts.

After years of suspension and legal jeopardy, he was sentenced to five years in prison on a sodomy charge in 2015.

Before he can become Prime Minister, Anwar must first contest a by-election to become a Member of Parliament.

Anwar said he would take some time off with his family.

It's expected that he will be the prime minister within two years under an agreement with the country's former leader, Mahathir Mohamad, who won a shock victory in the recent election and overturned 61 years of rule by the same party, Barisan Nasional.

For now, Anwar, whose wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, is the new deputy prime minister, says he wants to spend time with his family, rest and carry out some speaking engagements.

However, the Malaysian public saw the two politicians' "rapprochement as something very good", Chin said, and together they toppled Najib and broke the ruling coalition's 60-year grip on the country.

He added the King had then given his guarantee for Anwar to be released as soon as possible.

Mahathir told the conference that there will be "no deal" with Najib over the graft scandal.

Mahathir met Anwar on Saturday at the hospital where Anwar was recovering from surgery.

"I have forgiven him", Anwar said.

He was finally freed following a full and immediate pardon by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V after the Royal Pardons Board meeting.

Anwar and his supporters have long denied the sodomy allegations, saying they were concocted to destroy his political career. As such, he will not be rushing back into politics and will support the new government as a regular citizen instead.

Once a high flyer in the ruling party, Anwar was convicted of sodomy - and an additional charge of corruption - in 1998.

But Dr Mahathir stressed that the new administration would still pay off 1MDB's substantial debts.

"But naturally, it would take weeks or months...from Harvard, Stamford and other universities because I think I have a small contribution to show that the voice of reason and moderation in Islam is paramount and Muslim can be counted upon to ensure freedom and justice", he said.

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