A former Malaysian gangster who became a Christian leader during his incarceration received the royal pardon from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Monday, July 25 after spending 28 years behind bars.
Sam Kian Seng was imprisoned in 1988 for gun possession and was given a natural life term, which means he would have spent the rest of his life in prison.
Before his release, many people campaigned for him to be pardoned, including the jail wardens who witnessed his transformation while he served his prison term in Kajang Prison.
Prison authorities even asked Wong Chun Wai, a journalist, to visit Sam to personally see how his life has been transformed, in the hope that Wong can help in campaigning for his release.
"We know him better than anyone in the Pardons Board. He has changed and, more importantly, he has been changing the lives of other inmates," a prison official said, as Wong wrote in The Star.
Prominent lawyers and nongovernment organizations are among those who supported the campaign for Sam to be set free.
What made Sam so special that he caught the attention even of people outside prison?
"He counsels the inmates, leads daily worship and conducts Bible classes in cells, and provides information about non-governmental organisations like Malaysian Care and halfway houses to prisoners about to be released," Wong wrote.
He also helped those who were struggling in dealing with their prison time, reminding them "to be patient and to believe in God," The Star said in another report.
He leads about 60 inmates every Sunday in worship. And he did what the jail wardens couldn't do â€” rehabilitate difficult inmates.
Sam also showed compassion to fellow prisoners by sharing with them his belongings, such as soap and toilet paper.
Prison officials and everyone else who campaigned for Sam's release said he set a good example for the other inmates.
Now that he's free, Sam said he planned to see his family and visit the church.
"I want to have a gathering with all my family members and then go to church to see all my brothers and sisters," he said.