Israeli man pleads not guilty to firearms charges in Malaysia

Shalom Avitan, 37, was allegedly found in possession of a cache of guns and more than 100 rounds of ammunition.
Iman Muttaqin Yusof
2024.04.12
Kuala Lumpur
Israeli man pleads not guilty to firearms charges in Malaysia Israeli national Shalom Avitan (center), escorted by armed police officers, appears at Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, April 12, 2024.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

A Malaysian court on Friday charged an Israeli man with two firearms-related offenses after he was found in possession of a cache of guns and more than 100 rounds of ammunition in the capital Kuala Lumpur. 

Shalom Avitan, 37, pleaded not guilty at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court to the charges of illegal possession of a firearm and possessing a firearm without a license.

Police arrested Avitan at the Four Seasons Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on March 27 after receiving a tip. Officers searching his room found six semi-automatic pistols – including a Sig Sauer, a Glock and a Smith & Wesson – along with 158 bullets, according to charges read in court. 

Wearing a black t-shirt and beige trousers, Avitan was escorted into the court by more than a dozen armed policemen. Defense lawyer Navinjit Singh said his client had been in custody for 18 days and would be taken to Sungai Buloh prison in Selangor state before his next hearing on May 21.

The potential maximum sentence for illegal possession of a firearm is 40 years’ jail and six strokes of the cane. Possession of a firearm without a license carries a sentence of up to seven years and a fine not exceeding 10,000 ringgit ($2,106), or both.

According to Israeli news outlets, Avitan is an associate of a known crime family and allegedly came to Malaysia to assassinate the leader of a rival criminal group.

Malaysian police chief Razarudin Hussain has confirmed the defendant allegedly told investigators he was hunting another Israeli citizen, but police are not ruling out a different agenda – including the possibility he was a spy for Israeli intelligence.

“As I have pointed out, the suspect could be a threat to our leaders, foreign diplomats and even leaders from Hamas,” he told a local newspaper last week. 

Avitan flew to Malaysia on March 12 from the United Arab Emirates using a French passport. He was issued a tourist visa and moved between four hotels in Kuala Lumpur before his arrest. 

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution has confirmed Avitan's passport had been legally issued by the French embassy in Tel Aviv. 

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and its citizens are barred from visiting unless they obtain special permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has strongly criticized Israel for its bombardment of the Gaza Strip following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on the Jewish state.

On April 5, Razarudin told BenarNews that police had arrested 16 individuals, including an Eastern European, Georgian and two citizens from Turkey, in connection with the case.

Twelve Malaysians have been named suspects, including a married couple alleged to have supplied the weapons to Avitan.

On Monday, Syarifah Faraha Syed Husin, 41, was charged in Klang Sessions Court for possessing a Luger CZ 75 P-01 CAL. 9 pistol, while her 43-year-old husband, Abdul Azmin Mohd Yasin, was charged with aiding his wife by carrying the weapon.

They face up to 14 years’ imprisonment and a minimum of six strokes of the cane each if found guilty of violating the firearms act.

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