Thursday, March 20, 2014

Indonesian Christian Fighting Conviction In Malay Shariah Court

In so called 'moderate' Malaysia freedom of religion is supposedly part of the country's constitution, and both civil and Shariah law is practiced. Muslims are the only ones who are meant to be subject to Shariah law, but apparently that's not always the case. One Christian Indonesian woman living in Penang is living proof of that.

42-year-old Halimah is a reflexologist (an alternative healing modality) who was hauled into Shariah court and convicted for  "khalwat" back in 2011 after she was found in 'close proximity' of a male at the reflexology center where she worked. In 2012, without legal representation, she pleaded guilty and received a RM3,000 fine and 14 days’ jail sentence, though she was eventually allowed a 'stay of execution' pending an appeal. Her boss, also non-Muslim and unaware of Shariah law, eventually contacted Legal Aid and hired a lawyer for Halimah after the conviction and sentence were meted out. According to that lawyer, Wan Faridulhadi Mohd Yusoff, Halimah is illiterate and had no clue what she was confessing to, including admitting she was Muslim. Authorities didn't bother reading that part of the charge sheet to her, and Wan Faridulhadi claims she was coerced into admission, not fully understanding what would happen.

"This is a travesty of the law, the first such case where a Christian woman is charged for khalwat in shariah court; it should have been thrown out of court immediately upon proof of her religion," said Penang Legal Aid Centre consultant Cecil Rajendra.

Since her case is still pending, Halimah, has not been able to return to Indonesia.

Her lawyer and legal aid are still working to overturn the conviction.

More here.

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