KUALA LUMPUR (Dispatches) -- More than 20 Shia Muslims have been arrested by Malaysian authorities in a series of raids over the past few days, which have sparked fears of an upward trend of persecution, media reports said Wednesday.
They quoted Kamil Zuhairi, a senior cleric, as saying that police in the central state of Selangor had arrested 22 Shias during a gathering to recite Quran and observe Ashura, which marks the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam and the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him).
Hasan Askari, another cleric, said, "They used violence on us, some of us were handcuffed. They accused us of insulting Islam.”
Authorities in Selangor confirmed the arrests and said the move was because Shia teachings are banned in the state. They say all of those detained have now been released but some expressed fears that they could still face action in court.
On Monday, eight men were detained by religious authorities and police in the southern state of Johor during the Muharram ceremonies at a private residence.
Suhakam, Malaysia’s official human rights commission, has strongly denounced the latest crackdown on Shia Muslims.
"Unless Malaysian authorities, NGOs and civil society respect and tolerate the religious practices of all persons, we cannot truly profess to be a diverse and multi-cultural nation,” it said.
BERLIN (Reuters) -- A meeting between Germany’s foreign minister and Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong sent very negative signals for bilateral relations, China’s ambassador to Germany said on Wednesday, adding that the foreign ministry in Beijing had summoned the German ambassador in protest.
Ambassador Wu Ken also said China had sufficient evidence that foreign forces intervened in Hong Kong during protests and that Beijing was confident the government of Hong Kong could carry out its duties.
TOKYO (AFP) -- Women's rights protesters are taking to the streets for the sixth time in as many months as anger mounts in Japan over 'outdated' rape laws, after a man was allowed to walk free despite sexually assaulting his daughter for years.
A court ruled the father had sexually abused his child from around the age 13 to 19 and even acknowledged he was violent when she resisted, but he was acquitted because the law requires prosecutors to prove there was overwhelming force, a threat, or that the victim was completely incapacitated.
The verdict is being appealed, but it has sparked outrage with hundreds again expected to demonstrate in cities across the nation Wednesday, while an online petition demanding that any sex without consent be defined as rape -- signed by more than 47,000 people -- has been submitted to the justice ministry.
JUBA (Reuters) -- South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have agreed to form a transitional government by the middle of November, the information minister said on Wednesday.
The two men signed a pact a year ago to end a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced a third of the population and wrecked the economy. Machar made a rare visit to Juba this week to meet Kiir.
"The parties discussed minor issues and the principals agreed to establish transitional government by 12th November,” Michael Makuei Lueth, the information minister, told reporters.
Last year’s accord, which called for a unity government, has been delayed because the government says it does not have enough money to fund disarmament and the integration of all the armed factions.
This week’s meetings between the two leaders were aimed at ironing out outstanding issues, officials said.
ABUJA/CAPE TOWN (Reuters) -- At least 640 Nigerians have signed up to take free flights home from South Africa after xenophobic attacks on foreigners, a spokeswoman for Nigeria’s president said on Tuesday.
The flare-up in violence directed against mainly African foreigners has been widely condemned by South Africa’s neighbors and has caused a diplomatic dispute between Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s top two economies.
Private Nigerian airline Air Peace plans to operate two flights with Boeing 777 aircraft, the first leaving Lagos late on Tuesday to return on Wednesday with evacuees.
The plane can carry about 300 passengers.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday called for the immediate voluntary evacuation of all Nigerians wanting to return home, and Air Peace offered free flights last week.
JAKARTA (Reuters) -- Thousands of Indonesians prayed for rain in haze-hit towns on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo on Wednesday, as forest fires raged at the height of the dry season, the state Antara news agency reported.
Fires have burnt through parts of Sumatra and Borneo island for more than a month and the government has sent 9,000 military, police and disaster agency personnel to fight the flames.
Indonesia’s neighbors regularly complain about smog caused by its forest blazes, which are often started to clear land for palm oil and pulp plantations.
But Indonesia said this week it was not to blame and fires had been spotted by satellites in several neighboring countries.