Thursday, April 01, 2010
11:14 Mecca time, 08:14 GMT
Malaysia caning sentence commuted
Shariah laws apply to Muslims in all personal matters, while
non-Muslims are covered by civil laws [EPA]
A Muslim woman sentenced to be caned for drinking beer in Malaysia has
had her punishment commuted in a surprising turnaround.
The case had raised questions about Islamic laws intruding into personal
matters in the country.
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 33, received a letter from the Pahang Islamic
department informing her that the state's sultan had decided to spare her the
caning, her lawyer said on Thursday.
Had Kartika's punishment been carried out at the time of her sentencing
in July, she would have been the first woman to be caned in Malaysia, where
about 60 per cent of the 28 million people are Muslims.
Kartika was sentenced to six strokes of the cane and a fine of 5,000
ringgit ($1,400) for drinking beer in December 2007 at a beach resort.
Malaysia follows a dual-track justice system. Shariah laws apply to
Muslims in all personal matters; non-Muslims are covered by civil laws, and are
free to drink.
Only three states in Malaysia - Pahang, Perlis and Kelantan - impose
caning for drinking alcohol. In the other 10 states it is punishable by a fine.
Kartika pleaded guilty and did not appeal her sentence, but the
halted at the last minute following an uproar in the media and among
Adham Jamalullail, Kartika's lawyer, told the Associated Press news
agency that "as a substitution for the caning, the sultan has ordered Kartika
to perform community service for three weeks".
Sultan Ahmad Shah is the guardian of Islam in Pahang and its titular
head. Most of Malaysia's 13 states are ruled by sultans who usually play a
ceremonial role in governance but have the power to rule in Islamic matters.
Shukarno Abdul Muttalib, Kartika's father, said she has been told to
report to the Islamic department early on Friday.
"We will abide by the order ... Kartika will go on with her life,'' he
The sultan's decision followed Kartika's meeting with the Pahang crown
prince last month.
Officials had said the caning would be very different to the corporal
punishment administered on male criminals under secular civil laws.
Drug offenders, kidnappers and others are caned with a thick rattan stick
buttocks that break the skin and leave lifelong scars.
Kartika's punishment under Islamic laws would have been delivered with a
thin cane on the back with her clothes on.
However, in the meantime three other Muslim women were caned for having
sex out of wedlock, becoming the first Muslim women to be caned in Malaysia.
Their cases did not draw as much attention because the caning was kept a
secret until after it was done.
Subsequently, the women themselves appeared before local media and said
they deserved the punishment.
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