Anwar walks free from prison and into political limelight

Larry Hoffman
May 16, 2018

Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim, who had been imprisoned since February 2015 on disputed sodomy charges, was released from hospital in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday after being granted a royal pardon and will not return to prison.

Dressed in a suit, Anwar waved to reporters as he was whisked from a hospital, where he was recovering from shoulder surgery, to an audience with Malaysia's king.

While there were no massive surprises in the summary of the Auditor General's report, and it did not mention former premier Najib Razak by name, the audit said 1MDB officers took investment actions against or without full knowledge of the board of directors on several occasions, while giving inaccurate or conflicting information to stakeholders.

The coalition has promised that the newly elected prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar's mentor-turned-rival-turned-ally, will hand over power to his one-time protégé within two years.

In the WSJ report, Dr Mahathir said Anwar would be one of four party leaders in the ruling coalition and wouldn't be given any "special powers". He says he will run the government for two years before turning over the reins to Anwar.

Asked if Abdul Gani showed any documents, Dr Mahathir said he did not ask for any documents to be presented and the talks were merely verbal.

Anwar, whose sodomy conviction is believed by supporters to have been concocted by Najib to derail the opposition, is expected to be pardoned by the country's king on Wednesday and released.

Anwar and his supporters have long denied the sodomy allegations, saying they were concocted to crush him and his political allies.

Just three years ago, Anwar's career seemed finished, once again, when he was jailed on charges of sodomizing a young male aide - the second time he had faced such charges. Yet rather than give up, Anwar worked from his prison cell to forge a new opposition alliance by ending the two-decade feud with Mahathir - a gamble that paid off when the alliance won the 9 May polls.

"Overall, corporate governance and internal controls in 1MDB were less than satisfactory", the summary said.

The former prime minister has been blacklisted from leaving the country and on Monday Mahathir announced he would replace the attorney-general who cleared Najib in the 1MDB scandal in 2016 after a royal Saudi family member said the money was a personal donation to Najib.

His daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar has said the pardon was sought on the grounds of miscarriage of justice.

But differences with the proud Mahathir over how to respond to the 1998 Asian financial crisis spiraled into a bitter rift as Anwar called for reform and an end to UMNO corruption and nepotism. He was later produced in court with a black eye from a beating by the police chief.

Even while in jail, Anwar said he had detected growing outrage among Malaysians against Najib, who has been accused of involvement in plundering billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

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