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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Find Koh! Not investigating him, group tells police

Christian Solidarity Worldwide says annual US report highlights how religious freedom violations engaged in or tolerated by Malaysian government are serious

PETALING JAYA - An international Christian organisation has called for the police to enhance efforts to secure the release of Pastor Raymond Koh, instead of trying to investigate allegations that he had tried to proselytise to Muslims.

Calling on the police to cease their “baseless investigation”, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said Koh had been subject to incidents of harassment and threats that warranted closer attention.

“Pastor Raymond Koh works with all people who are in need. The work of people of faith in such communities must be free from threats of violence and intimidation.

We recognise that the abduction of Pastor Koh follows and is linked to incidents of harassment, intimidation, hate speech, criminal threats and attacks, based on religious grounds, against him and colleagues, that went largely unchecked by the authorities.

“We urge the Malaysian police to halt their baseless investigation against Pastor Koh and instead concentrate on securing his release and holding the criminals who have abducted him to account,” CSW’s East Asia team Leader Benedict Rogers said in a statement on the occasion of the 100-day mark yesterday, since Koh’s abduction.

Koh, 62, was abducted by a group of masked men less than 100 metres from the Police Housing Complex in SS4, Kelana Jaya, on the morning of Feb 13. Video footage later emerged showing what looks like a well-executed plan involving seven vehicles and at least 12 individuals.

The whole incident takes place in less than a minute, with all vehicles, including Koh’s car, seen driven away.

CSW also highlighted how Malaysia’s ranking on the 2017 Annual Report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom is weak due to such incidents of harassment and intimidation against religious minorities being “tolerated by the government”.

“The 2017 Annual Report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom places Malaysia on its Tier 2 list of 12 countries where religious freedom violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious. Malaysia has been designated a Tier 2 country since 2014.”

CSW also took note of how little progress has been made in the investigation into the abduction, let alone the lack of updates on the case, with such concern also echoed by the UN Human Rights Office in Bangkok.

Citing statements by Koh’s family, CSW said instead of concentrating on the circumstances behind Pastor Koh’s arrest, the police have instead focused on suspicions that Pastor Koh and the non-governmental organisation (NGO) that he founded, Harapan Komuniti (Hope Community), have been guilty of ‘proselytising’ to the Malay community.

“On April 6, the Malaysian media reported that the police had started investigating Pastor Raymond Koh and alleged unnamed associates for attempting to convert unnamed Muslim teenagers to Christianity in the northern state of Perlis.

“Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar reportedly stated that the investigation would be under Section 298(A) of the Penal Code, which stipulates offences relating to religion under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.”

CSW said the use of Federal Law to investigate proselytisation by invoking Section 298(A) of the Penal Code, an ambiguous cause which bars ‘causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will’, is unusual and could lead to more severe punishments being handed to those who are caught proselytising.

Supporting Koh’s work in Malaysia, CSW said he has undertaken social and charity work among marginalised and underprivileged communities, including people living with HIV/AIDS, recovering drug addicts, single mothers and their children.

The organisation, which lists itself as a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice, said Malaysia’s international image has been hurt over the issue of intolerance.

“Malaysia’s much-touted moderate Muslim image has been tarnished in recent times by the rise of restrictions against non-Muslim minorities.

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