Malaysia frees woman sentenced to caning

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By Razak Ahmad

SUNGAI SIPUT, Malaysia (Reuters) – Religious authorities in Malaysia on Monday freed a Muslim woman who had been sentenced to be caned for drinking beer, although she and her family demanded to know whether her ordeal was over. It was not immediately clear whether the sentence, the first time a woman has been sentenced to caning in this Southeast Asian country, had been overturned or merely postponed after an Islamic court official said the warrant could not be executed. An official from a state Islamic body gave no reason for the decision.

The caning has sparked concerns among some rights groups over a parallel Islamic legal system in this multi-ethnic country of 27 million people. The woman, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 32, was returned to her house after she was picked up by religious authorities to be taken to a jail where she was due to be caned this week.

At first Kartika, who had said she accepted her sentence and wanted it to be carried out in public, refused to leave the van when she was returned home. “I will not come out without a black and white document explaining the status of what has happened. I am surprised and speechless,” Kartika told reporters before her father talked her into leaving the vehicle.

FORMER NURSE

Kartika, a 32-year-old mother of two who had a job as a nurse in Singapore until news of her trial emerged, was wearing a cream-colored, traditional long Malay dress decorated with flowers and a headscarf.

Her father said the change of mind would bring ridicule on Islam, which bans Muslims from consuming alcohol, and that he would lodge a police report over the release. “We had already accepted the punishment,” Shukarno Mutalib, told reporters. While caning is a common punishment under Malaysia’s civil code, as it is in neighboring Singapore, no woman has been caned and the severity of the punishment has generated criticism that this modern majority-Muslim state was becoming more hardline. “There is a general push toward the implementation of sharia (Islamic) laws,” Osman Bakar Deputy Chief Executive of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia told Reuters. “It’s too simplistic to say that the government is becoming more Islamicised to gain more votes, more Malay support.”

Malays, who by law must be Muslims, account for 55 percent of the country’s population. A Malay nationalist party is main party in the coalition that has ruled this country for 51 years, but which is battling an opposition Islamic party for their votes. The National Front coalition, led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), stumbled to its worst ever losses in national and state elections in 2008. (Additional reporting by Niluksi Koswanage; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

the issue had been on for a week. i do not want to comment on this earlier but her actions are somewhat annoys me. she did her mistake. and she accepted the consequences. but why publicised it? just get on and deal with it. and now she wanted to shout about being released.. do not fool around on religious matters.. article from Reuters.

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