Malaysian officials to investigate opposition leader over claims

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Malyasian officials have launched an investigation into comments made by the country’s opposition leader over concerns he may have breached a new anti-fake news law ahead of elections planned for next week.

Police said on Wednesday they will examine comments made by Mahathir Mohamad last month alleging an airplane he had been due to travel on from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi island had been sabotaged. The pilot said its tyres were damaged just before taking off.

Mazlan Lazim, a police chief, told Reuters news agency officers had recieved a complaint against Mohamad concerning the allegations.

“We have opened an inquiry based on a police report made against Mahathir,” Mazlan said.

A spokesman for Mahathir did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Anti-fake news legislation

The investigation into Mahathir follows legislation passed by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government last month criminalising the dissemination of so-called fake news, which critics have suggested is an attempt to curb free speech in the run-up to the country’s May 9 election. 

Those prosecuted under the law could be fined up to 500,000 ringgit ($127,00) and jailed for up to six years.

Mahathir, who served as Malaysia’s prime minister from 1981-2003, had intended to travel to Langkawi – some 30km northwest of the mainland – on April 27 to file his candidacy for a return to the post ahead of the vote, which Najib is widely expected to win.

Prior to take-off, however, the plane’s pilot discovered some damage to the aircraft, which resulted in the flight being cancelled.

A subsequent government-ordered investigation into the incident, carried out by Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, found no indication of sabotage, instead concluding the aircraft had been unable to fly due to a minor fault related to one its wheels.

Azharuddin Rahman, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, described the damage as a “routine techincal fault” following the probe.

“Allegations of sabotage against an aircraft are extremely serious, and could impact the reputation of Malaysian aviation and the country as a whole,” Azharuddin said.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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