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Malaysia's New PM Ready to Pardon Opposition Leader

(VOA): Malaysia's newly installed prime minister says he is ready to make good on a campaign promise to pardon opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Mahathir Mohamad said Friday, “We will begin the . . . proper process of obtaining a pardon for Datuk Sri Anwar,” using a Malay honorific.  

Mahathir said the king “has indicated he is willing to pardon” Anwar.  

The prime minister said Anwar “should be released immediately when he is pardoned.”

The opposition leader is in prison on corruption and sodomy charges that were widely denounced as politically motivated.

Anwar had served as deputy prime minister and finance minister in Mahathir's government and was seen as Mahathir's heir-apparent until he was fired in 1999.

Mahathir, Malaysia's former leader, was sworn in Thursday as the country's seventh prime minister after his stunning election victory the day before, a feat that makes him the world's oldest elected leader.

The 92-year-old former prime minister known for his authoritarian rule, and his coalition of opposition parties, the Alliance of Hope, toppled Prime Minister Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional coalition, which includes UMNO, the ethnic Malay party that had ruled Malaysia since its birth as an independent country in 1957.

Najib's downfall was fueled by the imposition of a sales tax that mainly affects the rural poor and a corruption scandal in which billions of dollars were allegedly stolen from a state-owned investment fund he oversaw. Najib denies any wrongdoing.

Mahathir has said he is not seeking “revenge” against his political opponents, but promised to restore law and order.

Mahathir led Malaysia from 1981 to 2003. He is credited with building a thriving economy, but many Malaysians are still upset over what they said was Mahathir's harsh treatment of political opponents and suppression of free speech.

Najib's regime has also faced accusations of acts of repression against citizens. The human rights group Amnesty International said Thursday the election is a “historic opportunity to break with the human rights violations of the past.”

The rights group accused the Barisan Nasional coalition of “repeated attacks on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and arbitrary detentions under draconian laws.”

Amnesty International said Mahathir can begin reforms by fulfilling a campaign pledge to release Anwar.

It also called on Mahathir to abolish repressive laws such as the recently imposed Anti-Fake News Law, which it says is “designed to stifle debate online.”



(This story has not been edited by N24 staff and is Voice Of America auto-generated from a RSS feed)

Published Date: Saturday, May 12th, 2018 | 11:45 AM

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