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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Trump considers pointless posthumous pardon for Muhammad Ali

Draft dodging conviction for 'The Greatest' boxer was overturned in 1971

Donald Trump said he was seriously considering a pardon for Muhammad Ali, pictured here in November 2009 with President George Bush. He doesn't need one. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump said he was seriously considering a pardon for Muhammad Ali, pictured here in November 2009 with President George Bush. He doesn't need one. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump said Friday he's thinking "very seriously" about pardoning former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, whose conviction was already overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971.

It's one of "thousands" of cases the president's team is reviewing, he told reporters as he left the White House en route to a world leaders' summit in Canada.

Mr Trump has used his near-limitless power to pardon a growing list that includes a former White House aide, a conservative commentator and a former sheriff convicted of violating a judge's orders who campaigned with Trump in 2016.

Earlier this week, he commuted the life sentence of a woman whose cause was championed by reality television star Kim Kardashian West. Last month he granted a posthumous pardon to boxing's first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson. Actor Sylvester Stallone alerted him to that case.

Mr Trump told reporters Friday that his team was considering a pardon for Ali, who died in 2016.

Born Cassius Clay, Ali changed his name after converting to Islam in the 1960s. He refused to serve in the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs, declaring himself a conscientious objector. He was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967, but his legal fight ended in 1971 when the Supreme Court ruled in his favour and overturned his conviction. He regained the boxing title in 1974.

"I'm thinking about somebody that you all know very well. And he went through a lot. And he wasn't very popular then," Trump said. "He certainly, his memory is very popular now."

Ron Tweel, Ali's lawyer, pointed out that Ali has no criminal record. "We appreciate President Trump's sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary," he said.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about why the president feels one is needed.