KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- A state minister jailed for embezzling funds to sponsor the 1975 Muhammad Ali-Joe Bugner championship fight was among 62 prisoners pardoned by Malaysia's king today on the eve of the country's 25th independence anniversary.
Harun Idris, the former chief minister of Selangor State and once tapped to become prime minister, was sentenced to six years imprisonment in 1977 for using millions of dollars of bank funds to finance the title bout between Ali and Bugner in Kuala Lumpur in 1975, which he sponsored.
Harun, who was president of the ruling alliance's influential United Malays National Organizations youth wing and head of the cooperative Bank Rakyat, earlier had been convicted on 17 counts of embezzlement and corruption for misappropriating the group's funds for his own use.
Premier Mahathir Mohamad paroled Harun last October after he served three years of his sentence.
The prime minister's department said in a brief statement that the king, on the advice of the Pardons Board, agreed to give full pardons to Harun, 49 criminal prisoners whose sentences were due to end next month and 12 prisoners convicted under the Internal Security Act.
Home Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam announced the release of 47 other security detainees from detention camps. He said their release was not made as a result of 'pressure or appeals by any group claiming to champion human rights.'
Seven lawyers representing various civil rights groups recently visited Malaysia on a fact-finding mission but were accused of interfering in the country's internal policies.
Musa said the release of the detainees showed the 'principles of democracy and human rights were practiced in the country.'