Malaysia’s Mahathir says would back old foe Anwar as prime minister

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad smiles during an interview with Reuters in Putrajaya, Malaysia, in this March 30, 2017 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 06 July 2017

Malaysia’s Mahathir says would back old foe Anwar as prime minister

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is seeking the release of jailed opposition leader, and once bitter foe, Anwar Ibrahim, and would have no objection to him being premier, the Guardian reported on Thursday.
In an interview with the Guardian in London, Mahathir said Anwar should be released from jail, where he is serving a five-year sentence for sodomy, and allowed to contest elections as he was a victim of a political vendetta.
Anwar is seen as the greatest threat to Prime Minister Najib Razak and his coalition, after leading a three-party opposition alliance to stunning electoral gains in 2013.
“In the case of Anwar we can make a case that he was unfairly treated. The decision of the court was obviously influenced by the government and I think the incoming government would be able to persuade the king to give a full pardon for Anwar,” Mahathir told the Guardian.
“In which case he would be able to participate in politics and become PM. I can have no objection to that.”
Malaysia’s political landscape has been shaped for nearly two decades by a bitter feud between Anwar and Mahathir.
Anwar was once a protégé of the veteran prime minister, Mahathir, and the rising star of Malaysian politics, but they fell out in the late 1990s.
Soon afterwards, Anwar was jailed for the first time on charges of sodomy and graft, after being sacked as the deputy prime minister. He denied the charges, dismissing them as politically motivated.
He was convicted and jailed in 2013, when Najib was prime minister, for another sodomy charge, which he and his supporters described as a politically motivated attempt to end his career.
But after their years of animosity, opposition to Prime Minister Najib is drawing Anwar and Mahathir back together.
Last year, Anwar endorsed a political compact spearheaded by Mahathir to fight Najib.
Najib has been embroiled in a corruption scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad. He has denied any wrongdoing, even as the fund became the subject of money laundering investigations in the US and at least five other countries.
The sodomy conviction disqualifies Anwar from political office and from contesting the next election that must be held by mid-2018. A royal pardon, however, would let him contest.
Government sources have told Reuters that Najib had been preparing to call polls in September, but the timing has since become less clear in the wake of the scandals.
Last month, Anwar said he would not be a candidate for prime minister in the upcoming elections.
Mahathir, who turns 92 next week, has said he would consider taking up the premier position again, but only if there was no acceptable candidate after an opposition election victory.


UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

Updated 25 January 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

  • Richard Ratcliffe says his jailed wife is ‘being held hostage’ by Tehran
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison

LONDON: The husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed by Tehran over charges of espionage has urged the UK to be “tougher” with the regime.

Richard Ratcliffe made the comments after a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Thursday. 

Ratcliffe said there had been “no breakthrough” in discussions between the two nations to secure her release, and his wife was being used as a “chess piece” by Iran. 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison for “plotting to topple the Iranian government.” She and her family maintain that she was in the country to visit relatives.Speaking outside the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street, Ratcliffe told reporters that the meeting had been warm in nature, but hinted that the government was not doing enough.

“The prime minister was there, the foreign secretary was there, (we) talked quite openly about having tried a number of different things to get Nazanin home,” he said. 

“We pressed him (Johnson) to be brave. I want him to push forward on improving relations. You need to be imposing a cost on Iran for holding innocent people as leverage, you’ve got to be brave there as well. The government doesn’t always say it, but in my view, Nazanin is being held hostage.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Arab News.

The Downing Street meeting comes ahead of an impending court case over a long-term trade dispute between the UK and Iran, with London accused of owing Tehran debts over an arms deal from the 1970s.

Labour Party MP Tulip Siddiq, who represents the parliamentary seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, where Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family live, called on the government to settle the debt in order to help facilitate her release.

But MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, told the BBC that the issue was “extraordinarily difficult.” 

He suggested that setting a precedent of capitulating on legal disputes in return for the release of UK nationals could entice foreign governments and groups to threaten other UK citizens abroad. “The risk that would pose to British citizens traveling abroad would be very considerable,” he said.

Johnson was blamed by many in 2017, when he was foreign secretary, for having worsened Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation in Iran when, in a statement to the House of Commons, he claimed that he had been briefed that she was in Tehran training journalists. 

Despite claims from other politicians, her family and her employer, the Thompson Reuters Foundation, that he had been misinformed, the statement was subsequently used as evidence against her in court.