Swatch sues Malaysia over seizure of Pride watches

Swiss watchmaker Swatch Group has filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian government for confiscating a rainbow watch celebrating LGBT rights, claiming the action damaged its reputation.

Homosexuality is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia, and rights groups have warned of growing intolerance towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in the country.

In May, Malaysian authorities confiscated Swatch watches from its “Pride Collection” because they featured the word “LGBTQ” on them, the home minister said.

Swatch said in court documents that Home Office officers “illegally” seized 172 watches from 16 retailers. ReutersThe lawsuit, filed in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on June 24, was first reported by Malaysian news site Malay Mail on Monday.

“The seized watches have certainly not and will not cause any disturbance to public order or morals or any violation of the law,” Swatch said in its lawsuit.

The seizure notice sent to Swatch stated that the watches contained elements supporting or promoting LGBTQ rights, which may be in violation of Malaysian law, the company said.

Swatch said most of the seized watches, with a combined retail value of 64,795 ringgit ($14,250), did not feature the words “LGBTQ.”

Swatch says the seizure has “severely harmed” its ability to do business in the country and is seeking damages and the return of the watches.

Malaysia’s Home Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court will hear the case on July 20.

Malaysia has a history of imprisonment and flogging for being gay, with 18 people detained last year after attending a Halloween party attended by members of the LGBT community.

The seizures and lawsuits come ahead of crucial local elections pitting Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition against a largely conservative Malay-Muslim coalition.

With the election approaching, Anwar is once again being criticised for not doing enough to protect the rights of Muslims in multi-ethnic, multi-religious Malaysia.

Anwar was jailed for nearly a decade on charges of homosexuality and corruption, charges he denied and said were politically motivated.

The prime minister reiterated this month that his government would adhere to Islamic principles, according to state media. He also said LGBT rights would not be recognized by his administration.

Authors: A. Ananthalakshmi and Rosanna Latif; Editor: Kanupriya Kapoor.

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