Image © BBC News
The jailed former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, will be set free, after the country’s highest court overturned his sodomy conviction.
The decision came six years to the day after his dramatic sacking by Malaysia’s then Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohammed.
A panel of the Federal Court ruled 2-1 to reverse the conviction against Anwar on Thursday.
Judge Abdul Hamid Mohamad read out the verdict over 11/2 hours. As it became apparent that Anwar, 57, would be freed, the former deputy prime minister — wearing a neck brace and confined to a wheelchair — exchanged excited glances with family members and gave a thumbs-up sign.
A three-member panel comprising Federal Court judges Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamad and Datin Paduka Rahmah Hussain and Court of Appeal judge Tengku Datuk Baharuddin Shah Tengku Mahmud allowed the appeal in a 2-1 majority decision.
The court also allowed the appeal against conviction and sentence by Anwar’s adopted brother, Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja.
Wearing a broad smile, Anwar held an impromptu news conference inside the domed Islamic-style courthouse as more than 100 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, 57, told the judges after the decision. His lawyers shouted “Allahu akbar” — God is greatest — after the court adjourned, closing a chapter in one of the nation’s most extraordinary political sagas.
“Thank god it’s over,” Anwar added, turning to address 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.”