Malaysia maintains stance on Israeli Paralympic athletes ban

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Israeli athletes would not be allowed to compete in the country. (Reuters)
Updated 10 January 2019

Malaysia maintains stance on Israeli Paralympic athletes ban

  • Mahathir Mohamad: We will not allow them (to enter). If they come, then it is an offense
  • The 93-year old prime minister’s statement is in keeping with the country’s long-held policy toward Israel

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has reiterated that it will not permit Israeli athletes hoping to compete in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in Kuching, Borneo, to enter the country. The event runs from July 29 to Aug. 4, and is one of the qualifying events for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
“We will not allow them (to enter). If they come, then it is an offense,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters on Thursday. He explained that since Malaysia, a staunch supporter of Palestinian independence, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and does not recognize it as a state, it would be against the law to issue visas to the Israeli squad.
The 93-year old prime minister’s statement is in keeping with the country’s long-held policy toward Israel. In the past, Israeli squads have been refused entry to compete in international sailing competitions and tennis tournaments in Malaysia.
Despite mounting pressure from the International Paralympic Committee and the Israeli Olympic Committee, Malaysia is holding firm in its stance. “If they want to withdraw the championship hosting rights from Malaysia, then they can try to do so,” Mahathir said.
Muslim Imran, president of the Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia and a Kuala Lumpur-based Palestinian, said he sees the ban as a reaction to allegations that Israel undermined Malaysia’s national security through Mossad’s rumored involvement in the murder of Fadi Mohammad Al-Batsh, a Palestinian academic and member of Hamas who was killed in the Malaysian capital last year. Imran also pointed out that Malaysia’s decision was consistent with its long-standing opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“Malaysia is serious about its political support for the Palestinian struggle. More pressure has to be piled on Israel to end its apartheid policies,” he told Arab News.
Malaysia has been one of the most vocal critics of the decades-long occupation.
Mahathir voiced his country’s support for the Palestinian state at last year’s UN General Assembly, condemning Israel for ignoring the criticism of the international community and human rights groups for the occupation of Palestine.
Last month, Malaysia expressed its disapproval of Australia’s decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s national capital. Australia became the second nation to do so after the United States under President Donald Trump. Malaysia slammed Canberra’s actions as a “humiliation” for Palestinians.


Albanian police say they foiled Iranian ‘terrorist’ plot

Updated 32 min 59 sec ago

Albanian police say they foiled Iranian ‘terrorist’ plot

  • The cell had planned, among other things, a terrorist act foiled in March 2018 targeting a religious celebration of the Bektashi, a Sufi group, in Tirana
  • The ceremony was attended by members of the exiled Iranian opposition group the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK)

TIRANA: Albanian police said Wednesday they had thwarted a planned attack by a Tehran-backed “terrorist cell” against opponents of the Tehran regime in the Balkan country last year.

In a statement, police said the group belonged to the elite Quds force which runs foreign operations for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

This cell “had planned, among other things, a terrorist act foiled in March 2018” targeting a religious celebration of the Bektashi, a Sufi group, in Tirana, the statement said.

The ceremony was attended by members of the exiled Iranian opposition group the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), according to police.

In 2013 Albania agreed to take in some 3,000 members of the MEK at the request of Washington and the United Nations.

They currently live in a compound in the northwest of the country.

On Wednesday police published photos of three Iranians and one Turkish national allegedly involved in the “terrorist cell.”

The leader “resides in Turkey” and another “has an Austrian passport,” according to the police statement.

Police declined to confirm whether international arrest warrants had been issued.

Authorities also did not say whether the incident had any connection to Tirana’s decision last year to expel two Iranian diplomats who the US accused of plotting “terrorist attacks” in the Balkan country.

In January the European Union sanctioned Iran’s intelligence services after accusing Tehran of being involved in plots to assassinate regime opponents in the Netherlands, Denmark and France.

Paris accused Iranian intelligence of being responsible for plotting a planned attack on a MEK rally north of Paris in June 2018.