Retrial for Indonesian Christian convicted of khalwat in Penang

The Penang Shariah Court of Appeal has ordered a retrial against a Catholic Indonesian reflexologist Halimah for khalwat (close proximity).

Jun 26, 2014

PENANG: The Penang Shariah Court of Appeal has ordered a retrial against a Catholic Indonesian reflexologist Halimah for khalwat (close proximity).

Halimah's lawyers, however, are very likely to challenge her prosecution as the religious court has no power to try a non-Muslim.

Her lawyer Wan Faridulhadi Mohd Yusoff said the Penang Shariah chief judge Datuk Abdul Walid Abu Hassan had ordered that Halimah's case be remitted to the Shariah lower court.

Wan Faridulhadi said a June 5 order signed by Abdul Walid stated that the 2012 finding of guilty against Halimah by lower court had been revoked.

She was sentenced to 14 days jail and fined RM3,000 fine. She has been free after her employer had posted bail.

Wan Faridulhadi said the defence will make submissions before the lower court that Halimah could not go through a trial as she was not a Muslim and the religious court has no jurisdiction over her.

"The other option is to make representation to the prosecution to review the charge and consider all the supporting documents to show that Halimah is not a Muslim," Wan Faridulhadi told The Malaysian Insider today.

Halimah had appealed against her conviction and sentence but the Shariah High Court upheld the verdict last year even without hearing the defence.

"We appealed to the Shariah Court of Appeal because the High Court delivered its judgment without our case being heard. Even our submission of documents had not completed then," he said.

Halimah was charged with committing close proximity under Section 27(b) of the Shariah Criminal Offences Enactment (Penang) on May 15, 2012.

Halimah, 42, who claimed she is an illiterate, pleaded guilty to the charge without being represented by a lawyer.

On September 9 last year, the Shariah High Court upheld the lower court's decision, prompting the defence to take the case to the Shariah Appeals Court.

Wan Faridulhadi said the Consulate-General of the Republic of Indonesia had written to Abdul Walid to review the case and to possibly withdraw the charge against her.

The request was made under the advice of veteran lawyer Cecil Rajendra, who is holding a watching brief for the Malaysian Bar Council.

Rajendra lamented that Halimah, a mother of four aged between 22 and 16, had not been able to return home since her ordeal began.

"She even missed attending her son's wedding in Bandung last month," he said.

He added that the defence may consider filing a suit against the religious authorities for the wrongful prosecution.--The Malaysian Insider

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