Missing pastor had been probed for sedition, witness tells inquiry

Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth Sitepu have been missing since November 2016.

KUALA LUMPUR: A witness in Suhakam’s public inquiry into the disappearances of pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth Sitepu today said Joshua had been investigated for sedition in 2014.

Former Sungai Way police chief Shafiee Marsidi said the police report was lodged against Joshua in Rembau, Negeri Sembilan, in 2014, although the case was later classified as no further action (NFA).

He said he found out about the case after instructing the investigating officer (IO) on their disappearances to check if Joshua or Ruth had prior run-ins with police.

Asked by the panel if he could furnish more details on the case in Rembau, he said he could not remember.

Ruth and Joshua, a Malay Muslim who converted to Christianity, have been missing for over three years. They were last seen on Nov 30, 2016.

Asked whether he found that the nature of their disappearances had sensitive religious elements, Shafiee said he was not sure.

He agreed that it was abnormal for a Malay Muslim to leave the religion and embrace Christianity, but said he was not aware of the couple’s activities.

Asked whether he knew that they were proselytising to Muslims, he also said he was not aware about that.

“I was just informed by the (Rembau) IO that the missing person (Joshua) was probed under the Sedition Act for being involved in religious activities, and that the case was NFA,” he told the inquiry.

He said he did not seek any elaboration as to what religious activities the couple were involved in.

Shafiee also told the inquiry police had not requested for a search warrant to go through the couple’s house, although he agreed that they should have done so.

He said he had not recommended doing so as the instruction was supposed to come from his superiors from the Petaling Jaya headquarters who were also involved in the case.

He also said he was not sure if the Special Branch (SB) was roped in to help with the case, adding that he did not make such a recommendation.

Shafiee denied that there was a lack of effort in probing their disappearances in his one-year tenure as Sungai Way chief.

He said they had attempted to trace the couple by checking other addresses and had also checked with the Immigration Department if the pair might have left the country.