Malaysia has rejected a petition seeking a royal pardon for imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, his lawyers said Wednesday according to Reuters.
The petition, filed by Anwar’s family on his behalf after his sodomy conviction was upheld by Malaysia’s highest court in February, was rejected by the pardons board. The board reportedly gave no explanation for the decision.
“We would definitely be appealing on the leave rejection, and we will be asking for further information as to what is going on,” said Latheefa Koya, one of Anwar’s lawyers.
As The Diplomat reported previously, Anwar was found guilty of sodomizing his aide in what some have called a politically motivated charge aimed at eliminating the opposition leader as the chief threat to the ruling United Malaysia National Organization (UMNO) led by Prime Minister Najib Razak. Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, and it can lead to imprisonment for up to twenty years.
In addition to serving his prison term, the opposition leader was expected to lose his parliamentary seat and be unable to contest the country’s next election to be held by 2018 pending other legal options.
Some had worried that his imprisonment would undermine the opposition and play into the hands of UMNO, which scored its worst ever performance in 2013 polls, losing the popular vote but emerging victorious by winning more parliamentary seats. In an exclusive interview with The Diplomat, Sim Tze Tzin, the strategy director for Anwar’s party Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), had said that while the party and the opposition coalition were affected by Anwar’s imprisonment, other leaders and grassroots supporters would help sustain it moving forward.
While Anwar technically does have one last legal option and can file a judicial review with the Federal Court, his lawyers said no decision has been made on whether to pursue this course of action or not.
Anwar had initially risen within UMNO to become Malaysia’s deputy prime minister in the mid-1990s before falling out with the country’s then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. Since then, he has spent several years in prison after being convicted of what many have called politically-motivated corruption and sodomy charges. Anwar’s lawyers had appealed a conviction last March against their client for sodomizing a male aide in 2008, but that appeal was rejected in February.