Family seeks royal pardon to free jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The family of jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has sought a royal pardon in a last-ditch effort to try free him from a sodomy conviction.

Anwar, 67, began a five-year prison sentence Feb. 10 after Malaysia's top court turned down his final legal appeal, ruling there was overwhelming evidence that he sodomized a former male aide.

Nurul Nuha Anwar, his second daughter, said in a statement late Tuesday that there has been a "miscarriage of justice" against her father, whom she described as a "political prisoner".

"The court may have pronounced a guilty verdict but our father is innocent," she said. "We placed our confidence in the constitutional process and believe that justice will prevail when all the facts are scrutinized without political intervention."

The case was widely seen as politically motivated to eliminate threats to the ruling coalition, whose popularity has eroded in the last two elections.

Anwar, who was seen as the most potent political threat to the government, was accused of sodomizing a former lowly aide in 2008. Homosexuality is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and by whipping, although prosecutions are rare.

Ibrahim Suffian, political analyst with the Merdeka Centre think-tank, said he was surprised by the family's move, as requesting a pardon implied Anwar was guilty.

"The application can be viewed as a humanitarian gesture by the family, who is worried about his health," he said.

It was the second time Anwar was jailed for sodomy in just over a decade.

He previously was imprisoned for six years after being ousted as deputy prime minister in 1998 on earlier charges of sodomizing his former family driver and abusing his power. He was freed in 2004 after the top court quashed that sodomy conviction.

Anwar led his alliance to unprecedented gains in 2008 elections and made further inroads in 2013 polls. The ruling National Front coalition won with a slimmer majority and lost the popular vote to the opposition.

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