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Asking for royal pardon doesn't mean innocence, says Anwar

The prime minister says he believes the court which convicted former leader Najib Razak was independent.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim says the pardon application submitted by jailed former Umno chief Najib Razak does not mean innocence of the charges of which he was convicted. 

"When you seek a pardon, it does not mean you consider yourself innocent," Anwar, who himself was freed after securing a royal pardon in 2018 for his conviction and sentence for sodomy, said in an interview with Al Jazeera's 101 East programme.

Anwar said he believed the court which convicted Najib was independent.

"I support the decision of the courts. And I believe the courts are independent," he said.

Najib, who was convicted in 2020 of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power over SRC International funds, began serving a 12-year jail term in August last year.

In March, the Federal Court dismissed his application for a review of his conviction and sentence, renewing a campaign by his supporters in Umno for a royal pardon.

In April, Anwar acknowledged that he would be part of the Pardons Board tasked with deciding on a pardon for Najib. 

Anwar said there was no conflict of interest in him being involved in the pardons process for a leader from a party which forms part of his coalition government.

"There's a process, and I respect the process. Anyone, any prisoner, any convict, has the right to appeal to the king and seek pardon. Why deny Najib's right? Let the process go," he said.

Earlier this month, delegates attending the Umno general assembly where Anwar was an invited guest stood up in support of a call to seek "justice" for Najib.

Delegates carried banners urging for his release, while Zahid told Najib's family to be patient.

Analysts see the call for Najib's pardon as a political reward being demanded by Umno in exchange for the party's support for Anwar as prime minister. 

They also warn that Anwar could lose everything if the royal pardon does not come through. 

Anwar's allies DAP and Amanah have so far distanced themselves from Umno's campaign to free Najib, saying it is not a government stand.

Key leaders in both parties have also publicly condemned any move to pardon Najib, whom they targeted at the last two general elections over the 1MDB scandal.

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