Wife of Malaysian activist claims authorities might know about her missing husband

Mr Amri Che Mat led charity group Perlis Hope before his disappearance on November 24, 2016. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - The wife of a missing Malaysian social activist made a startling claim when she appeared at a closely-watched inquiry held by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) on Monday (Jan 22).

Ms Norhayati Ariffin said she suspected that the Islamic authorities in Perlis, the northern state's mufti, and a federal Cabinet minister are responsible for her husband's disappearance more than a year ago, Malaysia news media quoted her as saying.

Suhakam is holding a public hearing on Mr Amri Che Mat who led charity group Perlis Hope before his disappearance on November 24, 2016.

His car was found abandoned about 550m from the family's home.

The inquiry is part of Suhakam's hearing into the cases of three other missing Malaysians - Pastor Raymond Koh, Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth.

Suhakam was established by the Malaysian Parliament in 1999, and reports its findings to the House.

The four cases are closely watched amid concern among non-Muslim minority groups that these missing persons could have been abducted by Muslim vigilantes amid the rise of an intolerant strain of Islam in Malaysia.

There has been media speculation that Mr Amri was promoting Shi'ite ideology, a branch of Islam whose propagation is banned in Malaysia, and which could explain his kidnapping.

Alarms were raised last year when a video surfaced purportedly showing the abduction of Mr Koh that showed about a dozen men in balaclavas blocking his car with three dark vehicles in brad daylight in Petaling Jaya, and whisking him away. The video was recorded by a camera installed at the front of a house facing the road.

Ms Norhayati, Mr Amri's wife, on Monday said the Perlis Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JAIPS), Perlis Mufti Asri Zainul Abidin and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Shahidan Kassim had all condemned her husband's organisation which helps the poor.

"The department had condemned Perlis Hope activities of helping the poor. Shahidan had also condemned Perlis Hope on Facebook," said Ms Norhayati, as quoted by The Malaysian Insight (TMI) news site.

"Perlis mufti Asri had also warned the people to be wary about Perlis Hope activities which (he said was) connected to violence," she added, as quoted by TMI.

Datuk Seri Shahidan is a former menteri besar of Perlis and an influential leader in Malaysia's smallest state.

The hearing zoomed in on Mr Amri's case on Monday after its inquiry into the disappearance of Mr Koh was halted last week, after police said they have charged a suspect for kidnapping the pastor. The hearing on Mr Koh had to be stopped because the case is now before the court.

The Suhakam hearing is chaired by its commissioners Mah Weng Kwai, Aishah Bidin and Dr Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh.

The panel aims to determine whether Mr Amri's abduction, as well as the disappearances of Mr Koh, Mr Hilmy and his wife Ruth are cases of enforced disappearances sanctioned by the state, TMI said.

Mr Koh was kidnapped on February last year. Mr Hilmy and his wife were last seen in November 2016.

Ms Norhayati in her testimony to Suhakam on Monday said that in 2015, about 20 officers from JAIPS and police came in 10 cars to raid her family home.

"When I came out, a police officer had called me forward and introduced me to Dr Maza (Mufti Asri) who asked permission to enter the house but I wouldn't allow it as my husband was out," she told the inquiry, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today news site.

She alleged that the authorities then broke into the office of Perlis Hope which is located next to the house.

Ms Norhayati said the charity had nothing to do with religion or politics, and that Mr Shahidan and Mr Asri could be unhappy as its work was apolitical.

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