Malaysia’s highest court freed rebel politician Anwar
Ibrahim from almost six years in jail on Thursday, overturning his
conviction for sodomy in a shock ruling expected to win support for the new
prime minister.

The former deputy prime minister, confined to a wheelchair because of a
back complaint, used his first few minutes of freedom to urge the country’s
recently installed prime minister to drive harder on reform.

Wearing a broad smile over his neck brace, Anwar held an impromptu news
conference inside the domed Islamic-style courthouse, as hundreds of
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.”

Before his jailing, Anwar was a lightning rod for disaffected Malays, the
country’s majority ethnic grouping that dominates politics, and turned
against the then prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who was instrumental in
both his rise and fall.

The decision could be a defining moment for the leadership of Abdullah, who
succeeded Mahathir a year ago and won a landslide election victory in March
on an agenda of tolerance and a pledge to clean up corruption — an echo of
Anwar’s own agenda..


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