Malaysian police have arrested a French conspiracy theorist wanted in connection with the kidnapping of an eight-year-old girl.
Rémy Daillet-Wiedemann has been wanted by France since April accused of ordering the girl”s abduction.
He was detained on Saturday in the northern Malaysian resort of Langkawi, along with his pregnant partner and three children.
But acting police criminal investigation chief Dev Kumar told the Associated Press that the group had been arrested for “possessing expired travel visas,” and not related to the international arrest warrant on Daillet-Wiedemann.
Kumar added that he believed the family had been living on the tourist island of Langkawi since 2015, but that their visas expired on May 21.
Daillet-Wiedemann’s lawyer has also stated the family had not been arrested over the kidnapping of Mia Montemaggi.
Eight-year-old Montemaggi was abducted on April 13 by several men while staying with her maternal grandmother in a village in the Vosges region of eastern France.
She was found a few days later with her mother in an abandoned factory in Switzerland after a widespread police search.
Prosecutors suspect her mother may have been planning to take her on a flight to Russia, after losing a custody battle.
It has also been claimed that Daillet-Wiedemann played an important role in organising the child’s abduction and her stay in Switzerland.
Several people with right-wing, anti-government ties have already been indicted in the kidnapping.
Daillet-Wiedemann was a former regional leader of France’s centrist Democratic Movement party before he was expelled in 2010.
He reportedly runs a website calling for the overthrow of the French government and supports conspiracy theories that call for a halt on the use of face masks and 5G technology.
Daillet-Wiedemann’s lawyer has said that his client has been on hunger strike following his arrest in Malaysia.
“This French family and their children are being held in extremely difficult, inhumane and degrading conditions,” said Jean-Christophe Basson-Larbi in a statement.
“Rémy Daillet-Wiedemann and his family have been living regularly in Malaysia for over six years and are perfectly integrated.
“Because of Covid-related restrictions, the administrations have been closed, preventing the renewal of visas for foreigners residing on the island of Langkawi,” he added.
The lawyer has also claimed that the family had applied for a visa extension but had not received a letter of support from the French embassy.
Malaysian police have said that Daillet-Wiedemann would be handed over to immigration services once he had tested negative for the virus.
“We are mindful of the condition of the wife and children,” said Kumar, “we hope that they do not have to spend any longer time than is necessary in Malaysia.”
The conspiracy theorist could be deported to France by the Malaysian authorities for illegal residence in their country, or extradited if the international arrest warrant is retained. The French consulate in Malaysia has not commented on the case.