KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was granted a royal pardon on a sodomy conviction, a week after an opposition coalition that included his People’s Justice Party had won the general elections in the country.
After his release, Anwar was received by a crowd of supporters as he made his way out of a hospital in Kuala Lumpur where he had been recuperating from a shoulder surgery, an epa journalist reported from the scene.
His release came half an hour after the newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad attended a meeting of the committee, which approved the pardon granted by the Sultan of Kelantan, Muhammad V, who is the current head of state under a rotational system.
Anwar, who had served three years of his sentence, waved to the media but did not give any statement.
Flanked by security guards, he hopped into a car for an audience with the monarch in the royal palace.
Anwar is expected to talk to the media in the evening, according to his party, and will hold a meeting with his supporters later in the evening.
Meanwhile, defense sources said the Sultan accepted the recommendation of the pardons board and approved a complete reprieve for Ibrahim, including the removal of a five-year ban on political activities.
Anwar, who was convicted when he was the leader of the opposition, had claimed that the allegations against him were politically motivated.
In last week’s elections, the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition – led by Mahathir and supported by Anwar from prison – had defeated Barisan Nasional, (National Front) led by Najib Razak, whose term as prime minister was marred by corruption scandals.
The opposition had agreed before the elections that Anwar would substitute the 92-year-old Mahathir as prime minister mid-term.
Anwar, however, has to win a seat in the parliament to assume office later.