Malaysia sect detainees test law

Two Malaysians charged with belonging to a deviant religious sect are applying to test the nation's guarantees of religious freedom. They were among a number of people arrested at the home of an inter-faith group known as the Sky Kingdom.

The group's leader says he was sent by God, and preaches religious tolerance.

The pair argue that they had renounced Islam, and therefore did not break an edict banning Muslims from associating with the group. Known as much for building a giant teapot structure as for its teachings, the Sky Kingdom has often been criticised for luring adherents away from Islam. Police moved in to the group's compound in the state of Terengganu in early July, and arrested 21 people. All were charged in an Islamic court with breaking a fatwa, an edict issued by the state's Islamic authorities. Two of them are now set to challenge that charge by arguing that they had renounced their faith.