Malaysia: Opposition icon Anwar gets royal pardon, released from prison

In 2015 Anwar was jailed for five years in what his supporters described as a politically motivated move to end his career

The euphoric scenes that greeted the release of Malaysia's reformist Anwar Ibrahim from jail on Wednesday would have been unimaginable just last week, when the country's longtime authoritarian regime looked set for another general election victory.

Once a high flyer in the ruling party, Anwar was convicted of homosexual sodomy — and an additional charge of corruption — in 1998 amid a power struggle with Mahathir, at the peak of his authoritarian run in power.

Anwar's release on Wednesday caps a tumultuous two decades in which the opposition icon endured two spells in jail after falling out with two different prime ministers.

"My children were quite young during the earlier period of incarceration [from 1999 to 2003] and that was a hard period for them and [his wife, new deputy prime minister Wan] Azizah", he said.

Anwar was a firebrand Islamist student activist before his entry into politics, and had served 20 months in jail in the 1970s after being detained without trial for his activism.

Barisan Nasional was toppled in part because of deep national disgust with former leader Najib Razak, who stands accused of presiding over the plundering of a state investment fund he established. Anwar was sacked and charged with corruption and sodomy, charges seen as politically motivated.

Images at the time of a goateed, bespectacled Anwar in court with a black eye and bruises brought condemnation of Mahathir from around the world.

Asked about other possible crimes, Mahathir said: "We can not do everything at the same time at one go".

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Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, will visit neighbouring Malaysia's newly elected prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Saturday, his office said.

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 said that after working with Mahathir for many years he understands "that he cares deeply about Malaysia and the people of Malaysia".

"I have given my assurance, I am here as a concerned citizen to give complete support to manage the country on the understanding that we are committed to the reform agenda, beginning with the judiciary, media and the entire apparatus", Anwar said in a news conference at his home after he was freed from custody.

He was jailed again in 2015, once more on controversial sodomy charges which supporters say were a crude attempt to end his political career. "But Mahathir may be reluctant to hand over to his former nemesis, and if he drags his feet other scenarios could come into play", said Peter Mumford of the Eurasia Group in a research note.

Senior officials at scandal-plagued state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) withheld information from its board and took some decisions without the board's approval, according to a Malaysian government audit of the fund that was declassified on Tuesday.

Without a deal to help recover the funds, Najib faces the likelihood of prosecution and possible criminal charges.

Mahathir said it was up to the police to call Najib to facilitate the investigations into the 1MDB.

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