JAIS appeals ruling that stops prosecution of book publisher

Ezra Zaid at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya on Sept 25 this year. (Twitter pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The Selangor religious authorities have gone to the Federal Court to set aside a ruling that stopped the state chief shariah prosecutor from pursuing a charge against a book publisher who is accused of going against the Quran and Hadith.

Lawyer Maizatul Amalina Ahmed Mustaza, who appeared for Ezra Zaid, said the applicants have filed six questions of law to get leave from the apex court in order for the merit of the appeal to be heard.

“However, the leave application hearing could not be finalised as the apex court registry wants the Court of Appeal to prepare its judgment,” she told FMT today after a case management before deputy registrar Wan Fatimah Zaharah Wan Yussof

The next case management has been fixed on Feb 27 for the applicants to update the registry on the status of the judgment.

On Sept 25, Court of Appeal judge Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid, who chaired a three-member bench, allowed the appeal by Ezra, who published “Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta”, the Malay translation of Canadian author Irshad Manji’s work “Allah, Liberty and Love”.

Umi also remarked 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.

The bench also ordered the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS), its director-general, enforcement chief, Selangor shariah prosecution chief and the Selangor government to pay RM10,000 in costs to Ezra.

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 JAIS enforcement officials.

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

On March 7 last year, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur 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.