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article imageFamilies of missing Malaysian activist, pastor urge new probe

By AFP     Apr 4, 2019 in World

Families of a missing Malaysian Shiite Muslim activist and Christian pastor called Thursday for a new investigation into their disappearances after a bombshell inquiry concluded they were abducted by police.

Activist Amri Che Mat, the founder of a social welfare NGO, vanished in northern Perlis state in November 2016, while Pastor Raymond Koh disappeared three months later outside Kuala Lumpur.

While their cases are not linked, the families of the missing men have co-operated with the official Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, known as Suhakam, in a bid to get to the bottom of the matter.

Eyewitnesses reportedly claimed to have seen both men being abducted after the vehicles they were driving were boxed in by other cars.

Their cases have long captivated Malaysia, a multi-ethnic country with a Sunni Muslim majority, amid suspicions the state may have been involved in kidnapping them as they had clashed with powerful Islamic authorities.

On Wednesday a long-running inquiry by Suhakam concluded both men were snatched by the police's intelligence unit, and called for a taskforce to be set up to probe the cases.

"Hands of the state are involved in these forced abductions," inquiry head Mah Weng Kwai told AFP. The police have not responded to the inquiry's findings.

Amri's wife, Norhayati Mohamad Arifin, said her husband was the victim of a "heinous crime".

"I want a fresh investigation and a search launched to find my husband," she said.

Koh's wife Susana Liew added: "There is no justification for such abduction. We want the culprits to be brought to justice."

The commission has no real powers and can only make recommendations, which the government is not obliged to follow.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad described the probe's findings as "merely hearsay", the official news agency Bernama reported, adding: "I think they must produce some evidence."

The commission pointed to similarities between the cases.

Both men were investigated by authorities -- Amri was suspected of spreading Shiite teachings while Koh was accused of seeking to convert Muslims -- while the same model of car was seen in the area before they disappeared.

The Shiite branch of Islam is banned in Malaysia and followers of the sect complain of being repressed, while seeking to convert Muslims to other religions is forbidden.

Critics point to growing Islamic conservatism in the country of 32 million people in recent years which they say has chipped away at a traditionally tolerant form of Islam.

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