No go for shariah prosecutor without written judgment in publisher’s case

Ezra Zaid (left) with his lawyer at court in 2013. (Bernama pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has fixed another case management in June as the Selangor religious authorities have yet to procure a judgment stopping the state chief shariah prosecutor from pursuing a charge against a book publisher accused of going against the Quran and hadith.

Lawyer Maizatul Amalina Ahmed Mustaza, who appeared for Ezra Zaid, said as such, no date to hear a leave to appeal application could be fixed.

“I requested for the hearing to proceed without the written grounds, but the applicants (religious authorities) are not agreeable,” she told FMT.

On Sept 25 last year, the Court of Appeal 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”.

A court practice direction states that judgment should be made available eight weeks after an aggrieved party has filed an appeal.

Selangor assistant legal advisor Siti Fatimah Talib, who represented the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), its director-general, enforcement chief, Selangor shariah prosecution chief and the Selangor government, said several letters were sent asking for the judgment.

“The last was sent on March 9, just before the movement control order came into effect,” she said after attending a case management.

Siti Fatimah said another letter would be sent to the Court of Appeal to get the judgment as directed today.

Court deputy registrar Wan Fatimah Zaharah Wan Yussof meanwhile fixed another case management on June 30.

The applicants have filed six questions of law for leave from the apex court in order for the merit of the appeal to be heard.

In 2012, the home ministry banned Manji’s book, saying it contravenes the 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.

On March 7, 2018, 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 was 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 risks 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 then filed a judicial review 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.

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