Kuala Lumpur: “The eight pirates who confessed to hijacking a Malaysian oil tanker earlier this month were identified as Indonesian nationals”, officials said.
The tanker, ‘MT Orkim Harmony’, went missing on June 12 after leaving Malacca on Malaysia’s west coast for Kuantan on the east coast. It was carrying 6,000 tonnes of fuel worth $5.6 million.
The suspects were identified by a team of officials from the Indonesian Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City and the Indonesian Embassy in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, the Jakarta Post reported on Friday.
The Indonesian foreign ministry dispatched the identification team after media quoted Malaysian Navy chief Admiral, Abdul Aziz Jaafar, as saying that the hijackers spoke with Indonesian accents.
“On June 24, a team was able to ascertain that the hijackers were indeed Indonesians,” Indonesian Ambassador to Vietnam, Mayerfas said at a press briefing.
Mayerfas said the team did identity checks and document verification of the men to determine their nationalities.
Of 22 people on board, 16 were Malaysian nationals, five were Indonesians and one was a Myanmar citizen. All 22 were safe but the tanker’s cook was shot in the thigh.
The pirates were arrested near the Vietnamese archipelago of Tho Chu on June 19, hours after they fled from the hijacked tanker.
India will seek the Malaysian government’s help in extraditing televangelist Zakir Naik who faces charges of money laundering and inciting hatred through his sermons broadcast on Peace TV, the foreign ministry said Friday.
Zakir Naik obtained permanent residency in Malaysia
Officials will approach their Malaysian counterparts with the extradition request sometime within the next two weeks, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told a weekly news briefing in New Delhi.
“Any formal request seeking the assistance of a foreign government in cases of extradition requires a completion of the internal legal process involving consultation with other ministries involved in the case,” Kumar said.
“At this stage, we are nearing the completion of this process and as soon as this process is complete we will be making an official request to the Malaysian government in this matter,” Kumar said. “It could be a couple of days or a couple of weeks. But it would be soon and the nature of our request would also be clear.”
Naik fled India a month before terrorist carried out a massacre at a café in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in July 2016. This week, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister said the Islamic preacher legally obtained permanent residency in the country, and that Malaysian authorities would arrest him only if he broke local laws or was found to be involved in terrorist activities.
Naik’s speeches allegedly inspired some of the militants who carried out the siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka, where 29 people, including 20 hostages and five gunmen, were killed.
In November 2016, the Indian government banned Naik’s Mumbai-based NGO Islamic Research Foundation, which partly funded the Peace TV channel that is banned in India, Bangladesh and several other countries.
Kumar said because the Indian government had knowledge of Naik’s whereabouts, the legal procedures would be tailored to requirements between the two countries in their extradition treaty.
Advocate challenges charges
“Naik is being hounded because he hails from a minority community. The charges that the investigating agencies are trying to frame are all stale and are hardly incriminating,” advocate S. Hariharan told BenarNews in a phone interview from Delhi.
“The charges lack veracity and would not stand scrutiny in the court of law. We will be challenging the extradition and deportation.”
Last week, the Indian government filed a 61-page charge sheet against Naik alleging he was involved in a criminal conspiracy by lauding terrorist organizations. In April, a non-bailable warrant was issued against him in an alleged case of money laundering through his NGO and a shell company.
In Malaysia meanwhile, the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) has urged the government to ignore any request from India to extradite Zakir Naik, Reuters reported.
“For Muslim individuals, even when they won by using arguments and not weapons, like Dr. Zakir Naik, they are considered terrorists because their arguments cannot be countered,” PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang wrote last week in an opinion piece published in Harakah Daily.(BenarNews)