Christian preachers’ disappearance in Malaysia stokes fears of crackdown on religious minorities

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SHAFAQNA – The disappearance of three Christians and a man accused of spreading Shia Islam in Malaysiahas prompted fears that authorities are targeting religious minorities with extrajudicial detention.

Video and witness evidence indicate that highly organised groups carried out abductions in public. Months after the men disappeared, family members have learned nothing about their whereabouts and human rights activists say police have taken an uncharacteristically “casual” approach to the cases.

“Do I think the state is linked to this? It is a difficult question to answer,” said Suzanna Liew, wife of pastor Raymond Koh, who went missing on 13 February. “But can I rule out the possibility that people in power are linked to this or know more than they are admitting? No, I cannot.”

Koh had been accused of attempting to convert Muslims – a crime in Malaysia – and had a received death threat. Less is known about the abduction of the Christian pastor Joshua Hilmy – a convert from Islam – and his wife Ruth, who were reported missing in March.

A fourth person also disappeared in a similar way. Amri Che Mat, abducted in November, according to witnesses, was accused of preaching Shia Islam, which is not recognised in officially Sunni Malaysia.

Thomas Fann, a human rights activist, founded Caged, the Citizen Action Group on Enforced Disappearance, in response to the cases.

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