Malaysian judge orders review of caning sentence
By Razak Ahmad
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian Islamic appeals court judge has ordered a review of the caning sentence for a woman caught drinking alcohol, paving the way for her to be exempted from the punishment.
Women's Minister Shahrizat Jalil said on Tuesday that the Chief Appeals Judge for the Islamic courts in the eastern state of Pahang had deferred the caning pending a review of the sentence handed down by a lower court.
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year-old mother of two, had already received a temporary reprieve on Monday when a state government official said her punishment would not be carried out until after the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The Muslim holy month started on Saturday.
She was to have become the first woman in the Southeast Asian country to be caned under rarely enforced Islamic criminal laws.
"The judge has already started this process (to review the sentence), so we will wait for the outcome," said Shahrizat.
Instead of appealing the sentence, Kartika had asked that it be carried out in public, triggering a debate over the use of Islamic laws in the moderate Muslim country.
Prime Minister Najib Razak earlier urged Kartika to appeal instead of being "too quick in asking for punishment," adding "the authorities are sensitive to the implication of the punishment."
Kartika's case has drawn criticism from groups concerned about the rise of Islamic Shariah laws amid increasing Islamisation of the country's majority Malay-Muslims, who make up 55 percent of the 27 million population. Continued...