Kuala Lumpur: Three dispatch riders went on
trial in Malaysia on Tuesday accused of being behind one of a spate
of attacks on places of worship that have raised ethnic
tensions in the Muslim-majority nation.
The trio are the first to stand trial following the
attacks, which were triggered by a court ruling that
overturned a government ban on non-Muslims using the word
"Allah" as a translation for "God".
Azuwan Shah Ahmad and brothers Raja Mohamad Faizal Raja
Ibrahim and Raja Mohamad Idzham are charged with firebombing a
church in a southern suburb of Kuala Lumpur on January 7 and
face up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
Religion and language are sensitive issues in
multi-racial Malaysia, which experienced deadly race riots in
The three men, who have all pleaded not guilty, are among
19 people arrested over attacks on 11 churches, a mosque and
two Muslim prayer halls with Molotov cocktails, stones and
paint following the December 31 court ruling on "Allah".
The government argues that the use of the word by
Christians, who make up nine per cent of the population, could
cause confusion and encourage religious conversion, which is
illegal for Malaysian Muslims.
The row is one of a string of religious disputes that
have erupted in recent years, straining relations between
Malays and minorities who fear the country is being
Deputy public prosecutor Azlina Razdi said 25 witnesses
would take the stand in the trial of the three men, which is
expected to last two months.
"We are not interested in the motives of the accused but
in whether they committed the offence of attacking the
church," she told reporters.