Appeals court orders shariah charges against publisher dropped

Ezra Zaid at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya today. (Twitter pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has quashed the decision of the Selangor chief shariah prosecutor to charge a publisher of a book accused by Islamic authorities of going against the Quran and Hadith.

Court of Appeal judge Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid who chaired a three member bench allowed the appeal by Ezra Zaid who published “Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta”, the Malay translation of Canadian author Irshad Manji’s work “Allah, Liberty and Love”.

“The appeal is allowed in part,” Umi said, adding that the conduct of the state religious authorities would lead to the “law of jungle and rule by ulama”.

The other members of the bench were Hasnah Mohamed Hashim and Suraya Othman.

In 2012, the home ministry banned Manji’s book, saying it contravenes teachings of the Quran and Hadith.

Ezra, the son of former law minister Zaid Ibrahim, had asked for compensation for mental distress, agony and torture when he was under the watch of Selangor Religious Department (Jais) enforcement officials.

The bench ordered the quantum of damages to be assessed by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

Ezra, who was represented by Fahri Azzat, Nizam Bashir and K Shanmuga, was also awarded costs of RM10,000.

The court however disallowed Ezra’a appeal to return 180 copies of the books seized during the raid in 2012.

On March 7 last year, the High Court dismissed Ezra’s bid to challenge the religious authorities’ action against him for publishing the book.

It ruled that the religious authorities’ investigation and enforcement powers were not open for review.

“The warrant issued and the raid were done under Section 46 and there is nothing wrong with that,” the court had said, referring to the provision in the Selangor Shariah Criminal Enactment.

Ezra claimed trial at the Shariah Court on March 7, 2013, under Section 16 of the Shariah Criminal Enactment.

He faced a fine of up to RM3,000, a two-year jail term or both if convicted.

The books were seized during a raid by Jais on Ezra’s publishing firm, ZI Publications, on May 29, 2012.

Ezra filed a judicial review in 2012 to determine whether the Selangor Shariah enforcement and prosecution authorities could charge him for the offence in his capacity as proprietor and director of a company.

Lawyer Nizam Bashir said today’s ruling meant the on-going trial in the Petaling Jaya Shariah Court should stop.

Selangor religious authorities could go to the Federal Court to overturn today’s decision.