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Malaysia frees 4 detained Finns

Malaysian prosecutors will not press charges against four Finns suspected of distributing religious propaganda, which is a crime in the Southeast Asian country.

The New Straits Times-lehden uutinen aiheesta.
The Finns have been freed, says the newspaper New Straits Times. Image: The New Straits Times, Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Four Finns who have been held for several days in Malaysia have been released and allowed to return to Finland, according to local English-language newspaper New Straits Times.

The four were arrested at their hotel in the Langkawi archipelago on 20 November, about a week ago. They were alleged to have handed out Christian literature in Pantai Cenang, the main resort town on Langkawi Island. Authorities confiscated more than 300 leaflets including Bible quotes along with other items.

Story continues after photo

Pantai Tengah -ranta Langkawilla
Langkawi is known for its beaches. Image: Jan Hynnä / Yle

The two women and two men range in age from 27 to 60. They include Timo Valtonen, a former campaign manager for the nationalist Finns Party and leader of the Christian youth group Joosua Missio. The Vantaa-based organisation is affiliated with a Finnish Pentecostal church in Pattaya, Thailand.

"Wounding religious feelings"

The paper quotes the chair of the State Health, Rural Development, Religion and State-Government-Linked Companies committee, Ismail Salleh, as saying that the four were to be charged with violating Section 298 of the Malaysian Penal Code, which prohibits “wounding the religious feelings of any person” by placing “any object in the sight of that person”. It is punishable by up to a year in prison and/or fines.

However, “the prosecution team decided to send them home instead,” Salleh said on Monday, adding: “I’m really concerned with this incident, which is why I always emphasise that we should maintain a good relationship with one another regardless of race and religion, so we won’t be swayed by any seditious parties who are trying to ruin it.”

Just over 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslim, while about 20 percent are Buddhist.

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