Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim freed from jail

Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim freed from jail

Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim freed from jail

Mahathir, who was Malaysia's prime minister from 1981 to 2003, led his four-party alliance to victory against Barisan Nasional in last week's general election, ousting a coalition that had ruled the Southeast Asian nation for six decades.

In comments to a business conference on Tuesday, Mahathir confirmed the jailed leader will be released on Wednesday but said "I don't know what time".

Anwar emerged from a Kuala Lumpur hospital - where he had undergone surgery for a shoulder problem - after spending three years in jail on a sodomy conviction, which his supporters say was cooked up to destroy his political career.

Mahathir also said that Anwar will be released from jail on Wednesday after the pardons board meets at 11 a.m.

Mahathir, who is now prime minister for a second stint, had vowed to enable Anwar's release and eventually step aside for him to become the prime minister.

In "an initial stage, maybe lasting one or two years, I will be the prime minister", Mahathir said, speaking by live video link from Kuala Lumpur to a Wall Street Journal CEO conference in Tokyo.

"I will play a role in the background even when I step down", he added, however.

Meanwhile, Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail sought to dispel suggestions her husband wanted immediate power in the first place.

Yesterday, Istana Negara Datuk Pengelola Bijaya Diraja Datuk Ahmad Dahlan Ab Aziz said Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V had consented that all procedures regarding the Pardons Board proceedings on Anwar be finalised tomorrow.

Anwar was freed in 2004 and cleared of the sodomy charges after Mahathir retired.

Mahathir, at that time said he had to remove Anwar because he was "not fit for office".

What was the most significant lesson Anwar learned in prison? After that Mr Anwar was jailed on charges of committing sodomy and abusing power.

The charismatic Anwar was a rising political star in the 1990s under Mahathir, heading various ministries and earning praise overseas as a reformer.

"Many have asked me how it is that our reform movement has now joined forces with the very same former dictator, Mahathir Mohamad, who sacked my father in 1998 and saw him arrested, brutalized and incarcerated", Anwar's daughter Nurul Izzah, wrote in an article for the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday.

In an astonishing U-turn previous year, Anwar shook hands with Mahathir and agreed to join forces to oust scandal-tainted Najib.

"Mahathir has proven his tenacity, accepted his past limitations, apologised and sacrificed his time and energy to raise the dignity of the people", Anwar wrote in the note on May 8.

Mahathir has barred Najib from leaving the country pending investigations.

"The road ahead will challenge the best among us to deliver what we promised to the people", he said.

He said that Anwar, a former enemy turned ally, may be just a member of parliament for a while. United States investigators say some US3.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund.

Mahathir has replaced the attorney-general and officials at the anti-graft agency, in what appears to be a purge of people seen as close to the former premier.

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