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Christian woman wants khalwat case dropped before retrial

 | July 8, 2014

Indonesian Christian woman wants her khalwat conviction dropped before retrial at the lower syariah court.

christian_woman_300GEORGE TOWN: An Indonesian Christian woman, who was convicted for khalwat under syariah law two years ago, will apply to the prosecution to drop her case before it comes for retrial at the Islamic lower court.

Halimah’s lawyer Wan Fariduhadi Mohd Yusoff said he would submit his application to the Penang syariah chief prosecutor Azman Ismail tomorrow.

“We will make the formal application to withdraw the case to pre-empt the retrial,” he told newsmen here today after a Syariah Appeal Court hearing on Halimah’s leave application against her conviction.

Wan Fariduhadi’s main argument would be that being a Christian, Halimah should not have been tried in the syariah court in the first place, a fact upheld by the three-man bench of the Syariah Appeal Court in chamber on June 5.

Today, another three-man bench of the Appeal Court reaffirmed the chamber’s decision and ordered Halimah’s case to go for retrial in the Syariah Lower Court here.

The date for retrial has not been fixed.

Today’s hearing was to decide on Halimah’s application for leave to appeal against her conviction.

But the Syariah Appeal Court, comprising chief judge Ibrahim Lembut, judges Md Yusup Che Teh and Hussin Harun, did not make any decision on the leave application due to the latest development caused by the chamber’s decision.

On Feb 28 2012, the Syariah Lower Court here sentenced Halimah to 14 days’ jail and RM3,000 fine for committing khalwat with a non-Muslim at a spa in Jalan Seang Teik here at 11.40am on Dec 8 2011.

In September last year, the Syariah High Court dismissed Halimah’s appeal and upheld her conviction.

The mother of four from Bandung, Indonesia, then filed the leave application to the Appeal Court.

Halimah’s case drew widespread media attention as it was the first case in the country where a non-Muslim woman was convicted for committing khalwat with a fellow non-Muslim.

On April 28 this year, the Indonesian consulate general in Penang submitted a written request to the Penang Syariah chief judge Abdul Walid Abu Hassan for Halimah’s case to be reviewed and withdrawn.

Consul-general Ronald P Manik had argued that since she was a Catholic Christian, Halimah did not fall under the syariah jurisdiction.

The chamber’s concurred that Halimah was a Catholic and was therefore not bound by syariah laws.

Halimah, 42, said she was tired and frustrated by the long-running legal saga and wanted a quick end to it so that she could return to Indonesia.

Lawyer Cecil Rajendra, who is holding a watching brief for the Malaysian Bar Council, insisted the case should not have gone to the syariah court because Halimah was a Christian.

He noted that under Section 74 of the Penang Religious Enactment Act, the syariah court had no jurisdiction over non-Muslims.

Rajendra said despite this the syariah court went on with the trial and only took action when the Indonesian consulate general intervened.

He said the case showed that syariah law enforcers, prosecutors and judges had all broken their own laws.

He added that Halimah’s case had manifested the sort of justice that non-Muslims could expect under the hudud laws, if implemented.

“This case should not have come up for trial in the first place, let alone a retrial. It’s a miscarriage of justice,” said Rajendra.


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