Thursday September 2, 2004

Malaysia’s former deputy PM freed


Malaysia’s highest court freed rebel politician Anwar Ibrahim after almost six years in jail on Thursday, overturning a sodomy conviction that he and his supporters have long condemned as trumped-up charges.
The former deputy prime minister, confined to a wheelchair because of a painful back complaint and fitted with a neck brace, used his first few minutes of freedom to urge the country’s recently installed prime minister to embrace reform.
Wearing a broad smile, Anwar held an impromptu news conference inside the domed Islamic courthouse as more than 100 of his supporters rallied outside, raising his old battle cry of “Reformasi”, the reform movement he led before his 1999 jailing.
“Thank you, may god bless you,” Anwar told the judges after the decision.
“Thank god it’s over,” he added, addressing reporters. “I have to give credit to the new prime minister for not interfering with the judiciary ... I appeal to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to make the necessary reforms.”
The court’s ruling could be a defining moment for the new leadership of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who won a landslide election on an agenda of tolerance and a pledge to clean up corruption.
Before his jailing, Anwar was a lightning rod for disaffected Malays, the country’s majority ethnic grouping which dominates politics, and turned against the then prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who was instrumental in both his rise and fall.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"