Anwar Ibrahim declares 'new dawn for Malaysia' after release

Malaysia's Anwar says Najib likely headed to jail

Malaysia's Anwar says Najib likely headed to jail

The release of long-time Malaysian opposition leader and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Anwar Ibrahim is a landmark moment for human rights in the country, the organization said today.

Anwar Ibrahim's royal pardon paves the way for a return to politics for the former opposition leader who was jailed three years ago for alleged sodomy.

Anwar, who was initially scheduled to be released on Tuesday, walked out of the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital, where he was temporarily confined after surgery, and later arrived at the residence of the king, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V. Within weeks, he was arrested and jailed on disputed charges of sodomy and corruption.

He was eventually sacked from the ruling party and founded the Reformasi (Reform) movement, challenging Mahathir's government. It was the second time he had been convicted of a sodomy offense.

Speaking about Mr Mahathir's behaviour during his first prime ministership, Ibrahim Suffian, executive director of the Merdeka Center, an independent survey group, said: "Many of his allies suffered during his time as prime minister".

Anwar's first trial in 1998 was a dramatic affair, with the man who had only just been dismissed as deputy premier appearing in court with a black eye and bruises, sparking worldwide condemnation of Mahathir.

His freedom is expected to ease fears of a growing rift within the newly formed coalition government, after differences erupted between supporters of Mahathir and Anwar over cabinet positions and Anwar's role in the party.

Dr Mahathir came out of retirement and teamed up with the opposition and Mr Anwar in a bid to oust Mr Razak, tainted by a corruption scandal.

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail were swarmed by supporters upon arriving at Padang Timur tonight
PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail were swarmed by supporters upon arriving at Padang Timur tonight

"Although the pardon is the sole product of the king it was Mahathir who facilitated the process", said Anwar, in comments to CNN. "We hope Malaysia is stable and prosperous", he said. The new coalition is led by Mahathir.

"Mahathir is not known for standing down".

He stepped down from the post in 2003 after being in office for 22 years.

During the campaign, Mahathir promised to stand aside for Anwar once he had been pardoned, but the veteran leader is now talking of running the country "for one or two years" to fix its financial problems. I have felt all the suffering, misery and being humiliated during that period. As for his political future, he said he wants to take time to be with his family and that at least for now, he doesn't need to serve in cabinet.

"He is a symbol of freedom to Malaysians like me", 59-year old Ahmad Samsuddin told the BBC. "Malaysia has tried to register protest through the ballot box and not only that, the commitment is for democracy".

He has ordered that Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor, and others linked to 1MDB be barred from leaving Malaysia pending investigations. "Anwar's one-time ally, then his bitter enemy and, most recently, his political savior".

Xavier Jayakumar, a member of parliament with Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat, called it "a momentous day for all of Malaysia".

Anwar's release also sets up a tantalising reunion with his one-time mentor turned nemesis and now ally again - Mahathir.

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