Published: Thu, May 17, 2018

Anwar walks out of hospital a free man

Anwar walks out of hospital a free man

Anwar Ibrahim (C), former Malaysian deputy prime minister who was jailed for a sodomy verdict, waves as he walks out of a habitation center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 16, 2018.

"Anwar should never have been jailed in the first place, and his long overdue release is an important step towards the restoration of justice and human rights in Malaysia after so many years of political persecution by previous governments", said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General. His sentence was set to end June 8, but last week's unexpected election win, which ended the National Front's 60-year rule, led to his swift release.

Mr Anwar waved to reporters as he was whisked from a hospital on Wednesday where he was recovering from a shoulder surgery.

From there, Anwar left for his home in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur where he expressed his gratitude to the King for pardoning him and to the prime minister for assisting with the process of his release.

The convoy, which picked up vehicles as it sped through the city, carried the 70-year-old Anwar to the king's palace, where he shared a warm handshake with new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad - his former nemesis and current ally - before having an audience with the monarch.

Political rivals used allegations of homosexuality to attempt to discredit and imprison Anwar. The pardon now paves the way for him one day becoming prime minister.

Mr Mahathir agreed, and further said he meant to hand the prime ministerial post to Mr Anwar within two years.

Shouts of "Reformasi!" (Reform) -- Anwar's rallying cry -- rang out as he arrived at his sprawling family compound in a city suburb. Mr Anwar wanted to seek help from the International Monetary Fund, but Mr Mahathir favoured capital controls. "The people demand change", he said.

His release is a moment to celebrate for a group which labored in opposition for decades and faced constant pressure from those in office - he's been jailed twice on sodomy convictions and also for abuse of power. "I've told Tun Mahathir, I don't need to serve in the cabinet for now", he said, using an honorofic for the prime minister. He was later arrested and jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption. "We have buried the hatchet and he now fully supports the reform agenda", he said.

Anwar has denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated. In a statement on Sunday, Anwar reiterated his party's support for Mahathir's leadership but called for decisions to be made jointly.

Najib last month referred to Mahathir's coalition as a "motley collection of parties" that he said would struggle to remain united.

Asked about the new government's pledge to review large Chinese infrastructure projects, Anwar said that like Mahathir, he welcomed Chinese investment but was concerned about the manner in which the deals were done.

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