By Gulsum Incekaya and Nilay Kar Onum
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has voiced his support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey's upcoming elections.
Ibrahim, 70, used to be Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's former deputy; he was sentenced to five years behind bars on sodomy charges in February 2015 and came to Turkey upon Erdogan's invitation after he was released last month.
His release had marked the first major success of the newly-elected Pakatan Harapan coalition.
Mahathir, 92, has promised to hand over the premiership to Ibrahim within a year or two.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Ibrahim described Erdogan as "the most popular leader among Muslims of Malaysia and outside Malaysia because of his position on Palestine and on what happened to the Middle East".
Ibrahim said he supports Erdogan in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey "because there is one leader that shows courage against the powers in the world".
"Very few leaders of the world would have that courage to go and fight for justice."
Ibrahim recalled the Turkish president invited his wife and daughter to Turkey when he was in jail.
"Every time he [Erdogan] meets [former] Prime Minister Najib [Razak] or Deputy Prime Minister Zahid [Hamidi], he always makes it a point to remind [them] for my release," Ibrahim said, recalling that Erdogan also invited him to Turkey as soon as he was freed from jail.
"Jail is, of course, a hell on earth, but as I always say, the God is kind and supportive, but the rules are difficult. You lose weight, you become sick, you have injuries, lots of problems," Ibrahim said.
"Many of us experienced jail. President Tayyip Erdogan experienced jail and that makes us more patient, wiser and hopefully a better leader."
'Sole voice of courage'
In a separate event organized by the Political, Economic and Social Research Foundation (SETA) in Istanbul, Ibrahim reiterated his praise for Erdogan as a leader, who speaks against atrocities in the world.
“… In Tunisia, Pakistan, India every time I speak, I mention [Recep] Tayyip Erdogan, [tell them] ‘see him as the sole voice of courage in the Islamic world'.
“You agree or disagree [with Erdogan] politically. It is a different issue but he is the one person, who has the courage to speak up against atrocities, the Palestinians, even the Rohingya [Muslims],” he said.
He said every country should be able to make their own future.
“I do not want my country or myself to be dictated by the western agenda or the eastern agenda, not by the Chinese, not by the Americans, not by the U.K.
It should be people of Turkey, who “should decide the future of Turkey, not the west or the liberal agenda”.
He also said: “By all means, criticize president [Recep] Tayyip Erdogan, by all means, criticize the policies of AK Party, all the government, all the opposition, but be consistent.
“Why are you soft on what Trump is doing with the immigrants. Why are you soft on the atrocities in other countries?” he asked.
Ibrahim recalled he was in prison during the defeated coup of 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured. He said he learned about the coup bid from a prison officer. “I had no TV, no radio, no newspapers. I just prayed, read the Quran and prayed and prayed and prayed for the safety for my brothers and sisters and safety for this great country.”
He added: “If there is an attempt… to sabotage democracy and democratic process, I will not compromise.
“I can only lead if I am an effective leader. I can only lead if we do not protect perpetrators of violence and sabotage.”