Pardon unlikely for Malaysian opposition leader


Anwar Ibrahim unlikely to receive royal pardon due to refusal to admit ‘crime’

(Turkish Weekly, 18 February 2015) – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will not apply for a royal pardon following his conviction for sodomy as it would mean admitting his guilt, a senior party official has told the Anadolu Agency.

Anwar was jailed for five years last week at the end of lengthy appeals process in a case dating back to 2008 that many viewed as politically motivated.

“If we apply for a royal pardon, it will mean that he is admitting the crime and seeking amnesty from the king,” Azmin Ali, deputy president of Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “In this case, Anwar Ibrahim has not committed a crime.”

Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who leads the party, told Anadolu Agency that lawyers were exploring the possibility of receiving a pardon from the king without an admission of guilt.

“We still believe the imprisonment of Anwar Ibrahim is a political vendetta taken by government,” she said in a text message. “That [a royal pardon] is one of the choices but it will paint an impression of guilt on him.”

Former deputy prime minister Anwar, 67, was jailed on Feb. 10 in a Federal Court ruling that also rules him out of standing in the general election scheduled for 2018.

The case, in which Anwar was alleged to have sodomized a male aide, was first heard in 2012, when he was acquitted. The prosecution appealed the decision and in March last year Anwar was convicted on the same charge, which he appealed and lost last week.

The Federal Court is the highest court in Malaysia and its decision cannot be appealed. However, under the federal constitution, the monarch has the power to grant pardons.

In granting pardons, the king is advised by a board that consists of the federal territories minister, the attorney general and no more than three other members. Pardons are usually granted on the king’s birthday in June.

However, even if he seeks a pardon, Baharuddin Aziz, a political analyst at the International Islamic University, said Anwar is unlikely to receive a reprieve.

Before the king can consider a pardon it has to be proposed by the government, which Anwar has been highly critical of and which is accused of initiating the case against him to end his political career.

“The government will not propose his name,” Aziz told Anadolu Agency. “The pardon board also consists of government representatives. Even if the appeal goes to the board, it will not get enough support to carry weight to the king.

“Besides that, sodomy is a morally wrong crime under Islamic law. The Malaysian king, being a Muslim himself and heading a Muslim-majority Malaysia, will not allow a pardon for such crimes.”

Anwar has been the main opponent of the ruling party, which has been in power since independence in 1957, since falling out with the government in the late 1990s. The 2013 general election saw his opposition coalition came close to unseating the government in what Anwar dubbed the “worst electoral fraud in our history.”

Since the election, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government has adopted an increasingly authoritarian approach, cracking down on civil liberties and arresting student and civil society leaders.