Anwar can be freed in days, says wife after Malaysian king agreed to pardon

Justice Party president Wan Azizah smiles after visiting her husband, jailed former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, at the Cheras Rehabilitation Centre hospital in Kuala Lumpur, on May 11, 2018. PHOTO: AFP
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (left) said the Malaysian King has consented to granting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim a full and immediate pardon. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Prime Minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim could be released from custody within days, and be granted a full royal pardon within a week, his wife said on Friday (May 11).

The news came hours after newly-minted Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia's King Sultan Muhammad V had agreed to grant Mr Anwar a full and immediate pardon.

"The Agong (king) wants the pardon to happen as soon as possible," Mr Anwar's wife Wan Azizah, who is Deputy Prime Minister-designate, told reporters outside a hospital where she had gone to visit Anwar.

"If the director of prisons is satisfied ... then he may be released in 2-3 days. Freedom is easier (than getting a pardon)."

Anwar has served about three years of a five-year jail term for sodomy and is due to be released on June 8.

Tun Dr Mahathir, who was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, has said he will step down and allow Mr Anwar to take his post after he is pardoned and able to return to politics.

"The Agong has indicated to Lim Guan Eng that he is willing to pardon Datuk Seri Anwar immediately," Dr Mahathir told a news conference after a presidential council meeting of ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan.

Mr Lim is secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party, a member of the PH coalition.

"It is going to be a full pardon, (he will) be released immediately when he is pardoned. After that he will be free to participate fully in politics," he said. He added that the process for Mr Anwar to become a member of parliament "may take a long time."

Malaysian law disqualifies Mr Anwar from running for office for five years after his release, unless he is pardoned by the country's King.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Anwar thanked "the people of Malaysia for their courage in making a change which is a victory for the people", referring to Wednesday's watershed election in which his Pakatan Harapan alliance defeated the Barisan Nasional, which had governed Malaysia for six decades since its independence from British rule.

"The new government vows to uphold democracy, justice and human rights for all," said Mr Anwar's statement, delivered by vice-president of his party, Tian Chua, who was visiting the leader in hospital.

"I can't stay for very long. At the most, I can last for two years," Dr Mahathir, 92, had told Japanese newspaper Mainichi in a recent interview.

Dr Mahathir also said that there was "some manipulation" in Wednesday's general election and vowed that a proper investigation would be carried out.

"There is evidence that there was some manipulation. For example in the case of Sabah. Initially Warisan won about 35 seats but the Election Commission kept on counting and recounting so as to reduce Warisan to 29 seats. Now they have a problem because they cannot form a government," he said adding that there were attempts to bribe politicians to switch parties.

"We will properly investigate all these things because we want to follow the rule of law," he said. He noted that if there was evidence of corruption, the election results in those seats should be invalidated.

He also said that the new government would look into reversing the changes made when the Election Commission redrew electoral boundaries just ahead of the election on May 9.

"This election was not clean at all. People were being bought. Constituency boundaries were being changed. All these things are worse than gerrymandering. It is really to favour the government. All those things will be studied and where possible we will change back to the original boundaries," he said.

Dr Mahathir had earlier warned that some heads of government departments will be removed for aiding the previous "kleptocrat" administration.

At the media conference on Friday he said the EC chief would be investigated to see if he was involved in corrupt practices.

He also took aim at the country's Attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali, who he claimed had "hidden evidence of wrongdoing" and "undermined his own credibility."

In response, Tan Sri Apandi said his conscience was clear.

"My conscience is clear," he was quoted as saying by online news site Malaysiakini. "What is of utmost importance is that the rule of law shall prevail and whatever action to be taken or done by anyone must be in accordance to the law, in particular, the supreme law, i.e. the Federal Constitution," he said.

In 2016, Mr Apandi had cleared Dr Mahathir's predecessor Najib Razak of any wrongdoing after international investigations claimed RM2.6 billion found in Datuk Seri Najib's personal accounts had originated from debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Dr Mahathir was speaking to reporters on Friday after chairing a meeting to discuss the new Cabinet. He said another meeting would be held on Saturday, and the names of 10 ministers in charge of finance, home affairs, defence, education, rural development, economy, public works, transport, foreign affairs, and multimedia, science and technology, would be announced then.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.