Suit over Anwar’s pardon can go on, rules High Court

Anwar Ibrahim’s pardon in 2018 is being challenged by lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz, who says it is not in accordance with the law.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here today dismissed applications by the government and Anwar Ibrahim to strike out a lawsuit filed against them by lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz over Anwar’s pardon in 2018.

In his lawsuit, Khairul is seeking a declaration that the pardon given to Anwar is not in accordance with the law, as the Federal Territories Pardons Board was not formed in accordance with provisions in the Federal Constitution.

Judge Akhtar Tahir ruled that this is not a clear cut case to be summarily dismissed through striking out the applications by the government and Anwar under the Rules of Court.

“Evidence might need to be called before the court. The second defendant (Anwar) also has the right to cross-examine the witnesses,” he said.

Akhtar also said there are questions that need to be answered on why the Yang di-Pertuan Agong set aside Anwar’s conviction for his sodomy cases.

“Other accused persons who are facing similar charges would feel injustice as they were not pardoned and they will be asking questions on why this person (Anwar) is pardoned,” he said.

Akhtar set March 24 to 26, 2021 as the hearing dates.

“I will give the parties enough time to appeal until the Federal Court,” he added.

Anwar was represented by lawyer J Leela, and senior federal counsel Natra Idris appeared for the government. Khairul was represented by fellow lawyers M Reza Hassan and Haniff Khatri Abdulla.

Khairul previously said he was of the view that the composition of the pardons board was not in accordance with Article 42 (5) to advise the Agong to pardon Anwar.

He said he had the legal standing to bring the action as an aggrieved person.

The lawyer said then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced on May 11, 2018, two days after Pakatan Harapan came into power, that the king had granted a full pardon to Anwar.

“The pardon came about just before a Cabinet was formed and this was in violation of Article 42 (4) and (5) of the supreme law of the nation,” he said.

Further, he said, the board had not existed on May 16, 2018 to advise the king to pardon Anwar, who is currently the opposition leader.

Khairul said a board member – then attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali – was on garden leave and the Federal Territories minister had yet to be appointed. He also said Apandi had also not assigned the solicitor-general to represent him at the meeting.

Article 42 (5) states the Federal Territories pardons board membership should consist of the attorney-general, the minister and at least three others to advise the king.

The Federal Court, in early 2015, affirmed Anwar’s five-year jail term over a charge of sodomising his aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Anwar told a press conference on May 16, 2018, that the king had granted him a full pardon in his three trials – abuse of power, Sodomy 1 and Sodomy 2 – on the basis that there was a “miscarriage of justice”.

He said the pardon was also on the basis that there was a conspiracy to condemn him and “assassinate” his political character.