Wednesday, August 26, 2009

News Asia-Pacific Malaysian woman spared caning

News Asia-Pacific Malaysian woman spared caning

News Asia-Pacific
Malaysian woman spared caning

Kartika was taken into custody briefly before being abruptly released [AFP]

Religious officials in Malaysia have freed a Muslim mother of two who had been sentenced to be caned for drinking beer in a hotel.

In a surprise announcement on Monday, an official from the state of Pahang's Islamic Affairs department said Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 32, had been freed on orders from "higher authorities".

"The warrant cannot be executed," Sharafuddin Zainal Ariffin, head of enforcement for the state of Pahang's Islamic Affairs Department, told reporters after Kartika was returned to her parents' home.

It was not immediately clear whether the sentence - six strokes of the cane - had been overturned or postponed.

Kartika had earlier been taken into custody for transportation to a prison near Kuala Lumpur, where she had been expected to be lashed six times with a rattan cane.

But after moving a short distance the vehicle halted for at least half an hour before turning around and returning to the house.

Badaruddin Ahmad Bustami, an Islamic department official, said prison representatives had suddenly informed department authorities who took custody of Kartika that they "cannot accept her", without giving any reason.

"We don't know what to do. We will discuss this with the sharia court" to determine whether the sentence should be waived, Badaruddin told the Associated Press news agency.


The former part-time model, who had earlier told Al Jazeera that she had accepted the sentence and asked to be caned in public as an example to other Muslims, had at first refused to get out of the van when told she was being released.

"I'm afraid that people will make fun of the religion. Don't make my daughter a toy to play with"

Shukarno Mutalib,
Kartika's father
"I am speechless but I'm not getting out of the vehicle, I want to know what my status is. I want a black and white statement from them," she told reporters from inside the van.

Her father, Shukarno Mutalib, said the about-face could reflect badly on Islam.

"We had already accepted the punishment," he said. "My daughter wants the sentence to be done. I'm afraid that people will make fun of the religion.

"Don't make my daughter a toy to play with."

He added that he and his daughter planned to file statements about the abrupt release at a district police station as they were worried officials might later accuse his daughter of running away from them.

Kartika was convicted in July by a sharia court after state religious authorities caught her drinking alcohol when they raided a hotel nightclub.

The nurse would have been the first woman in Malaysia to be caned by the authorities.

Malaysia, which has large Chinese and Indian communities, uses a dual-track legal system where sharia courts can try Muslims for religious and moral offences under Islamic law.

Alcohol is widely available in the country but is forbidden for the majority Muslim community, who make up just over half the population.

Muslims can be fined, jailed for up to three years or given six strokes of the cane for drinking alcohol, but prosecutions are extremely rare.
Source: Agencies


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