Civil groups: Shariah court risks double jeopardy with identical charge against woman in stand-up comedy controversy

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — Several civil rights groups have today criticised Islamic authorities for a "witch hunt" in re-arresting Siti Nuramira Abdullah, the woman who was recently charged for a controversial stand-up routine, right after she was released on bail at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex.

Calling the move "excessive", the groups also said her second charge in the Shariah court scheduled for tomorrow is akin to "double jeopardy" — a situation where a person is being charged twice for the same offence.

"There is a risk of double jeopardy should Jawi proceed with charging Siti Nuramira under Section 7 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Enactment," said Sisters in Islam (SIS), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), and Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU Malaysia), referring to the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department.

"It is SIS position that Section 7 Shariah Criminal Offenses (Federal Territories) Enactment is similar in essence as Section 298A of the Penal Code as both laws are considered blasphemy laws and prohibit any criticism of religion. Although Section 7 of the Enactment only covers the religion of Islam, but it still covers religion as per Section 298A."

Section 298A covers "causing disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion".

Section 7 of the Enactment meanwhile handles "insulting or bringing into contempt against the religion of Islam".

The joint statement cited the 1986 court case of Jumali Adnan v PP, which set the precedent that charges made against the accused must be distinctively different and there should "not be a duplicity of charges brought against a person".

The civil rights group also pointed out the poor coordination between Jawi and the Attorney-General Chambers since both departments are under the same federal government.

"We further reiterate that this is a waste of taxpayers' money, as both agencies are run by the federal government which has the authority to collect taxes from all taxpayers around the nation and be channelled to these two agencies," they said.

Nuramira, who allegedly insulted Islam during an open mic comedy skit at the Crackhouse Comedy Club, was detained by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) earlier today.

She was released on bail after crowdfunding enough money to secure a combined bail of RM40,000 for her and her boyfriend four days later.

"The show of force by Jawi is also excessive, having eight enforcement officers to arrest a nonviolent person for a nonviolent crime. Some of our politicians whose crimes affect the nation as a whole but did not receive such attention and were not arrested by eight officers.

"Jawi should channel this manpower towards other areas that require more urgent attention affecting communities in difficult and dire financial and non-financial circumstances, particularly the enforcement of 'nafkah' payment to children," they said, referring to financial support by Muslim fathers.

Nuramira will be charged under Section 7 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 tomorrow which provides a fine not exceeding RM3,000 or imprisonment for up to two years or to both, if found guilty.