Malaysian police raid ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak's house

17 May, 2018, 00:41 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Malaysia's Anwar says Najib likely headed to jail

Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian opposition leader and one of the world's most prominent prisoners of conscience, was freed from detention today on the orders of Mahathir Mohamad, the man who hounded him into prison two decades ago.

The firebrand politician was convicted of sodomy a second time in 2015, this time as his opposition alliance was making gains on the long-ruling coalition.

Earlier, Anwar was thronged by scores of supporters and reporters after he walked free from a hospital, where he was recovering from shoulder surgery, and whisked away to an audience with Malaysia's king.

"We asked for a pardon not to absolve us from wrongdoing, but because there was an abuse of power, to which the king agreed - and I've been cleared of all charges", he said, as he spoke alongside his wife, the new deputy prime minister-designate Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Before being freed, many people - regardless of whether they were supporters of PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim or of other parties parties - could have had doubts whether he could work with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but the question was answered today.

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But the 92-year-old Mahathir, now himself arrayed against the BN coalition he once headed, led Anwar's pro-reform alliance to a stunning election victory last week and orchestrated the release of his old foe in an extraordinary rapprochement. Rising public anger at a massive government corruption scandal under now ousted prime minister Najib Razak, who stands accused of presiding over the plundering of the state investment fund 1MDB, boosted support for the opposition.

But rather than join the government immediately, he said he would take some time off and give global lectures on Malaysia's transformation from a "kleptocratic, semi-authoritarian regime to a fully fledged democracy".

Anwar played a crucial role in helping Mahathir win.

Amnesty International said Anwar's release was a "landmark moment for human rights" in Malaysia and called for repressive laws muzzling freedom of expression and assembly to be repealed.

At the time Mahathir had said he needed to remove Anwar because he was "not fit for office" - though Anwar has always maintained that the charge was spurious and that Mahathir felt threatened at his popularity with the masses.

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Anwar's prison sentence ends on June 8, but without a royal pardon he would be barred from politics for five years. "I must thank the people of Malaysia", said Anwar.

Anwar was supposed to speak to the press outside the centre upon his release, but the sheer hubbub from supporters and media seems to have delayed this. As such, he will not be rushing back into politics and will support the new government as a regular citizen instead.

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

He said it was Mahathir's prerogative to form the cabinet, but noted he had given assurances that he will consult party leaders.

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