Lawyer: Anwar's release will take time

KUALA LUMPUR - Scores of pressmen were staking out at the hospital where Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is warded after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the former will be given a full and immediate pardon by the King.

This despite Anwar's lawyer R.Sivarasa saying that the release was not going to happen soon.

Talk of Anwar's supposed release started circulating after local media quoted Nurul Izzah Anwar as saying that her father would be released yesterday.

However, Sivarasa said that there had been a "misunderstanding".

"It is not happening today," he said when contacted yesterday.

Justice Party President Wan Azizah smiles after visiting her husband, jailed former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, at the Cheras Rehabilitation Centre hospital in Kuala Lumpur​ Photo: AFP

He explained that Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Nurul Izzah's visit to the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital yesterday afternoon - where Anwar is being held - was just a normal family visit.

"The process for Anwar's release and royal pardon has started.

"I think everyone involved will understand that it is urgent but it will still take a few weeks before Anwar will be released," he added.

Outside the hospital, Dr Wan Azizah said that Anwar was in a jubilant mood.

"He followed the events of the new prime minister and how the victory of Pakatan Harapan has created history and that he is part of it," she said.

Earlier in the day, Dr Mahathir told reporters after a Pakatan presidential council meeting that Anwar would have to become a Member of Parliament first before he could be made a Cabinet Minister.

"That might take a long time," he said.

"We will go through the proper process of obtaining a pardon for Datuk Seri Anwar.

"It is going to be a full pardon, which of course means that he would be released immediately," he said.

"After he is pardoned, he will be free to participate fully in politics," Dr Mahathir added.

Constitutional lawyer Syahredzan Johan said that to be able to contest in an election, Anwar would first have to receive a royal pardon under Article 48 of the Federal Constitution.

"So in Anwar's situation, his disqualification can only be lifted five years after he is released from prison, unless he receives a royal pardon or if the disqualification is removed by the King," he said.

Syahredzan noted that Article 43(2) of the Federal Constitution provides that the King shall first appoint a prime minister from the membership of the Dewan Rakyat who, in his judgment, is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House.

He said that this means that the prime minister cannot come from the Senate and that someone would have to resign from their seat to enable Anwar to contest in a by-election after his disqualification is lifted.

He said if Anwar wins the by-election, the Pakatan government can then propose his name for the prime minister post.

The King had met with Pakatan leaders on Thursday, before giving his assent to appointing Dr Mahathir as the country's seventh prime minister.

Anwar was charged in 2008 with sodomy. He was tried in 2010 and 2011 and was acquitted in January 2012.

However, in March 2014, the acquittal was overturned by the Court of Appeal, and he was sentenced to a five years' jail.

Anwar appealed to the Federal Court but to no avail, and has been serving his sentence in Sungai Buloh Prison.