Israeli Man Pleads Not Guilty to Firearms Offences in Malaysia

Israeli Shalom Avitan (C) is escorted by Royal Malaysia Police officers as they arrived at Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Israeli Shalom Avitan (C) is escorted by Royal Malaysia Police officers as they arrived at Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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Israeli Man Pleads Not Guilty to Firearms Offences in Malaysia

Israeli Shalom Avitan (C) is escorted by Royal Malaysia Police officers as they arrived at Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Israeli Shalom Avitan (C) is escorted by Royal Malaysia Police officers as they arrived at Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

An Israeli man, who was arrested in Malaysia last month carrying six guns and dozens of bullets, pleaded not guilty in a Kuala Lumpur court on Friday to charges of unauthorized trafficking and possession of firearms, his lawyer said.

Shalom Avitan, 38, faces two charges of illegally trafficking six guns and unauthorized possession of 158 bullets, the lawyer, Jeffrey Ooi, told Reuters.

Avitan arrived in Malaysia from the United Arab Emirates on March 12 on a French passport, police said. He was detained by police at a Kuala Lumpur hotel with a bag containing the weapons on March 27 and produced an Israeli passport upon questioning, officials have said.

Security was tight around the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex on Friday. Avitan was escorted into court by more than a dozen police officials.

Malaysia has harsh penalties for gun offences. If convicted, Avitan could face up to 40 years in prison, and no less than six strokes of the cane.

Police are investigating Avitan's motives and have not ruled out the possibility that he could be part of an Israeli crime ring, or a spy. Officials have said Avitan claimed he was in Malaysia to hunt down another Israeli citizen over a family dispute.

A married Malaysian couple was charged earlier this week with supplying the firearms to Avitan. Police have detained eight other people, including two Turkish nationals and a Georgian man, in connection with the case, state media reported.

Authorities beefed up border security following Avitan's arrest, given the country's criticism of Israel's actions in the Gaza war. Malaysia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations.



Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
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Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)

China's military drills last week were more about propaganda and intimidation than starting a war, but Chinese forces did show how they could react quickly, Taiwan's top security official said on Wednesday.
China said it carried out the two days of war games starting Thursday as "punishment" for new President Lai Ching-te's inauguration speech last week, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were "not subordinate to each other", which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries, Reuters said.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Lai rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future, and has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing but been rebuffed.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said the aim of China's drills was not to go to war.
"The purpose of the military exercises was to intimidate," he said.
The drills were meant to show an external and domestic audience that Beijing "has absolute control over the situation in the Taiwan Strait", Tsai added.
Speaking in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated its list of complaints about Lai being a dangerous supporter of Taiwan's formal independence, and threatened continued Chinese military activity.
The drills were a "just action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity", she said.
"As Taiwan's provocations for independence continue, the People's Liberation Army's actions to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity continue."
The government in Taipei says Taiwan is already an independent country, the Republic of China. The Republican government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists who set up the People's Republic of China.
China says any decisions on Taiwan's future are for all of China's 1.4 billion people to make, not only Taiwan's 23 million, and has offered a Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" autonomy model, though that has almost no public support on the island, according to opinion polls.
"Different systems are not an obstacle to reunification, let alone an excuse for separation," Zhu said.
China has never explained how it would integrate Taiwan's vibrant democracy and direct election of its leaders into any plan to govern the island.
China has in the past four years sent its military to areas around Taiwan on an almost daily basis, as it seeks to exert pressure on the island.
But China also appeared to be trying to keep the scope of these drills contained, Tsai's bureau said in a written report to lawmakers, noting there was no declaration of no-fly or no-sail zones and the exercises lasted only two days.
"The intention was to avoid the situation escalating and international intervention, but in the future it is feared (China) will continue its compound coercion against us, gradually changing the Taiwan Strait's status quo," it said.
Tsai added that Chinese forces mobilized almost as soon as China announced the drills early on Thursday.
"The speed was extremely fast, demonstrating rapid mobilization capabilities," he said.