Malaysian ‘Mandela’ Anwar Ibrahim walks free from prison after royal pardon

Jailed former opposition leader and current federal opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (R) with his wife Wan Azizah (L) greet the supporters during a rally in Kuala Lumpur on May 16, 2018. Reformist Anwar Ibrahim declared a "new dawn for Malaysia" on May 16 after his release from prison transformed him into a potential prime minister following his alliance's stunning election victory. / AFP / Roslan RAHMAN
Updated 17 May 2018
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Malaysian ‘Mandela’ Anwar Ibrahim walks free from prison after royal pardon

KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim, the long-term imprisoned Malaysian politician, was released from prison on Wednesday after receiving a royal pardon from the Malaysian king.
Dressed in a suit and freshly shaven, Anwar Ibrahim put on his biggest smile as he left the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital.
Outside of the hospital, crowds of supporters were awaiting the de-facto People’s Justice Party (Keadilan) leader. Ibrahim was greeted with cheers and chants of “Reformasi,” or reformation.
Among the people to cheer him was Azha Nizam, 23, a young Keadilan supporter from the state of Sarawak. He had boarded a flight the night before in the hope of witnessing the historic day. He was accompanied by three of his friends, also from East Malaysia.
“I feel happy, I believe Anwar (Ibrahim) will make the country more progressive,” Nizam said.
His friend, Mohammed Asseri, 25, told Arab News that “during Najib’s era, Malaysia was well-known in the media with stories about 1MDB.”
Asseri was referring to the scandal in Malaysia in which $700 million of 1MDB state funds went missing under the Najib Razak administration.
Anwar Ibrahim has been in the political wilderness since his sacking by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in 1998. He has been in and out of prison for politically motivated sodomy charges for most of the past two decades.
Despite that, Anwar propelled the reformation movement in the early 2000s and the formation in 1999 of the Keadilan party, which is currently headed by his wife, Wan Azizah.
Anwar Ibrahim was greeted by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad upon his arrival at the Royal Palace, where he also met with the Malaysian king. Later at a press conference, the newly freed leader said prison authorities had told him that his criminal record had been erased.
Anwar Ibrahim will lend his full support to the Malaysian prime minister and his government to ensure the reform agenda is carried out effectively.
“I feel happy (about Anwar’s prison release) because he fights for the people and the nation,” the long-time supporter of Keadilan and the reformation movement, Wan Ishak, 57, told Arab News.
He added that the government needs to prioritize the people in its reform agenda: “If the people’s rights are not protected, how will (the people) be able to live well?”
Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s surprise comeback in this year’s national polls has opened the door for the prime ministership of Anwar Ibrahim. The premier has promised to hand over power to Anwar after two years, to which Anwar agreed.
“He (Dr. Mahathir Mohamad) has no choice,” Dr. Oh Ei Sun, senior adviser to the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, told Arab News. He said that the people who voted for the Alliance of Hope (PH) as the new government would expect Anwar Ibrahim to continue his reform agenda.
“It will be interesting to see how his interactions with Dr. M will be as he re-enters politics,” Dr. Oh said.
Dr. Greg Lopez, Malaysia expert at Western Australia’s Murdoch University, told Arab News that one of Anwar Ibrahim’s biggest challenges would be managing the interests of coalitions parties.
The Alliance of Hope consists of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the People’s Justice Party (Keadilan), the National Trust Party (Amanah) and the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU).
In East Malaysia the Sabah Heritage Party (Warisan) and a few of the independent parties have given their allegiance to the new government.
“While Mahathir as prime minister would be the case of the smallest party (in terms of parliamentary seats) leading the coalition, when Anwar Ibrahim becomes PM it would be the case of the largest party leading the coalition,” Dr. Lopez said.
“The ‘Reformasi Agenda’ was central to Malaysians voting for change. It would be a remiss if Anwar Ibrahim failed to deliver on his two decades’ campaign for reforms in Malaysia,” he said.


Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

This combination of the Oct. 2, 2017 file photos shows Indonesian Siti Aisyah, left, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, right, escorted by police as they leave a court hearing in Shah Alam, Malaysia, outside Kuala Lumpur. (AP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

  • Evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins
  • The women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Two Southeast Asian women on trial in Malaysia for the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother could be acquitted Thursday or called to enter their defense in a case that has gripped the world.
Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a hidden-camera show.
They are the only two suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted. If the defense is called, the trial could take several more months.
If the women are acquitted, they may not be freed right away as prosecutors could still appeal the decision as well as push forward with separate charges for overstaying their visas.

Here’s a look at arguments that were raised during the trial:
THE PROSECUTION
Over the course of the six-month trial featuring testimony from 34 people, prosecutors laid out a bizarre murder plot they likened to something from a James Bond film.
They accused four North Koreans, suspected government agents with code names such as “Mr. Y” and “Grandpa” and later identified by police, of being the masterminds who recruited the women, trained them and provided them with VX. All four fled the country the same morning Kim was killed and none are in custody.
Airport security footage shown in court captured the moment of the attack and prosecutors said linked the women to the other suspects. Shortly after Kim arrived at the airport, Huong was seen approaching him, clasping her hands on his face from behind and then fleeing. Another blurred figure was also seen running away from Kim and a police investigator testified that it was Aisyah.
Investigators said the women were seen rushing to separate washrooms, each with their hands outstretched, before they fled the airport. Kim died within two hours of the attack.
A government chemist testified that the VX concentration found on Kim’s skin was 1.4 times greater than the lethal dosage. He said VX was found in Kim’s eyes, face, blood, urine and clothing, as well as on both women’s clothes and on Huong’s fingernail clippings.
In his closing arguments in June, prosecutor Wah Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said the women must have been trained to use VX, a rare nerve agent developed as a chemical weapon. He said they had to know the best route for VX to enter the victim’s body and know that they must wash the nerve agent off themselves within 15 minutes to avoid being contaminated.
With Kim a tall and heavy man, the prosecutor said the women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration. Despite their claim about a prank, he said their facial expressions and conduct during the attack didn’t reflect any humor.
“We expect that the defense will be called for a simple reason: They need to explain why VX was found on them,” Wan Shaharuddin told The Associated Press.

THE DEFENSE
Lawyers for the two women say their clients were simply pawns in a politically motivated killing with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
They say the prosecution’s case was too simplistic, handicapped by a sloppy investigation and failed to show any intention on the part of their clients to kill — key to establishing the women’s guilt.
The defense said evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins, pointing out that they didn’t wear gloves when applying VX, didn’t dispose of their tainted clothing and didn’t flee the country.
The real culprits, the defense argues, are the four North Korean suspects. The four were captured by airport security cameras discarding their belongings and changing their clothing after the attack.
The North Korean Embassy has also been implicated with an embassy official helping get flights out for the four men and using the name of one of its citizens to buy a car that was used to take the suspects to the airport.
Nevertheless, Pyongyang has denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that it was behind the killing. Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
“The prosecution’s evidence is purely circumstantial,” Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said, noting that there was no proof that his client applied VX on Kim. He said his client’s DNA was not found on a shirt recovered by police.
Huong’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said they have given prosecution “a good fight.”
“We are confident that justice will be served on Thursday and (Huong) will be acquitted,” he said.