Anwar Ibrahim (C), former Malaysian deputy prime minister who was jailed for a sodomy verdict, waves as he walks out of a habitation center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 16, 2018. Anwar Ibrahim was released on Wednesday after receiving pardon. (Xinhua/Chong Voon Chung)
KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Anwar Ibrahim, former Malaysian deputy prime minister who was jailed for a sodomy verdict, was released on Wednesday after receiving pardon.
Witnessed by a large crowd of reporters and supporters, Anwar walked out of a habitation center where he was receiving treatment recently under custody.
Anwar, 70, wearing a black suit and sporting a smile, waved to his supporters before he boarded a car to go to the royal palace to meet the king.
In a statement, the National Palace said Muhammad V, the ceremonial head of state, or the king, has allowed a full pardon and given an immediate release for Anwar. At a press conference held at his house in the afternoon, Anwar said the pardon was unconditional.
The full pardon also allows Anwar to return to politics.
Anwar was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 and later jailed for corruption and sodomy under then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. He was jailed again in 2015 for sodomy as opposition leader. Anwar has denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.
Since 2016, Mahathir and Anwar have joined hands again against the government led by Najib Razak. Their coalition, Pakatan Harapan, won the general election last week.
Mahathir has been sworn in as prime minister and he has also promised to hand over to Anwar.
At the press conference, Anwar thanked the people of Malaysia, regardless of their race and religion, who "stood by the principles of democracy and freedom" and created a "new dawn for Malaysia."
"They demand change, and it is our duty to ensure this mandate given to Pakatan Harapan would honor those commitments," he said.
Anwar said he is in no hurry to return to politics, but instead, he will travel a lot to some renowned universities, including Harvard and Stanford, to speak about Malaysia's democratic experience.
Recalling his life behind bars, Anwar said the most significant lesson he has learnt in prison is "the value of freedom." "Anyone must not be allowed to undergo the same travesty," he said, adding that such injustice needs to be stopped once for all.