Malaysian state to cane woman after Ramadan

Mon Aug 24, 2009 7:26am EDT
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By Razak Ahmad and Royce Cheah

SUNGAI SIPUT, Malaysia (Reuters) - Religious authorities in Malaysia postponed on Monday the caning of a Muslim woman convicted of drinking alcohol until after the holy month of Ramadan.

The planned caning of 32-year-old mother of two Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has drawn criticism from rights groups concerned by the rise of Islamic laws in this traditionally moderate country, even though Kartika had accepted the punishment.

Earlier on Monday it appeared she might have been freed when a court order that would have transferred her to a prison where she was to have been caned was ruled invalid by an Islamic justice official.

Kartika was released from a van that would have transported her to the prison in Pahang state in eastern mainland Malaysia where she committed the offence that she admits and for which she wanted to be punished in public.

"The punishment has not been canceled, it was postponed because of Ramadan," Pahang state Executive Councillor for Religion, Missionary Work and Unity, Mohamad Sahfri Abdul Aziz, told Reuters.

Ramadan, a time of fasting and contemplation for Muslims, started on Saturday and lasts a month and Mohamad Sahfri said that the decision was taken after consultations with Malaysia's Attorney-General.

Kartika, who has admitted that she drank beer at a hotel in Pahang in December 2007, said that she still accepted the sentence but wanted to be treated fairly.

"I am shocked but I remain steadfast with my decision," Kartika, wearing a cream-colored, traditional long Malay dress decorated with flowers and a headscarf, told reporters after the state announced it would push ahead with the caning.   Continued...

<p>Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno talks to her father Shukarno from a van belonging to the Islamic Religious Department at her father's house in Sungei Siput, about 300km (186 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia&rsquo;s state of Perak August 24, 2009. REUTERS/Zainal Abd Halim</p>