Malaysia police arrest man over statements backing diplomatic ties with Israel

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -Malaysian police said on Wednesday they have arrested a 36-year-old man and were conducting a sedition investigation over statements he made suggesting the country should establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

Malaysia, a majority-Muslim country, is a staunch supporter of the Palestinians and has criticised Israel’s actions in the Gaza war. Kuala Lumpur does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

“The statement was made during an interview with an Israeli social media influencer Hananya Naftali that had been uploaded to TikTok,” Mohamad Shuhaily Mohamad Zain, director of the police criminal investigations department, said in a statement.

The investigation is being carried out under the sedition act, communications and multimedia act, and the penal code, he said. The individual has been remanded in custody for three days from Wednesday, he added.

A six-minute video clip of the interview between Naftali and the detained man, who said he was Malaysian, circulated on social media this week, sparking uproar among local users who said his views did not represent the opinion of other Malaysians.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim joined thousands of pro-Palestinian supporters in Kuala Lumpur in October to condemn Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip, and has said he will not bow to Western pressure to reject Hamas.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff, Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Andrew Heavens)