Federal court dismisses Saudi columnist’s appeal


(Bernama) – Saudi Arabian columnist Hamza Kashgari, who claimed he was unlawfully arrested and deported from Malaysia, failed in his appeal today at the Federal Court here for reinstatement of his habeas corpus application.

A five-man panel led by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum unanimously dismissed his appeal against a Kuala Lumpur High Court decision which struck out his writ of habeas corpus seeking that he be brought to the court and released.

In his habeas corpus application, Hamza, whose original name is Mohamad Najeeb A. Kashgari, alternatively sought a declaration that his arrest and deportation were unlawful.

Federal Court judges Datuk Hashim Yusoff, Datuk Suriyadi Halim Omar, Datuk Ahmad Maarop and Datuk Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha were the other four judges on the panel.

Hamza, 23, was wanted by the Saudi Arabian authorities for allegedly insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad, an offence which carries the death sentence in that country, upon conviction.

Hamza had arrived in Malaysia on Feb 7, this year and was detained by the immigration authorities, two days later, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport while en route to Auckland, New Zealand.

He was deported on Feb 12, on a private flight at the request of the Saudi government.

The following day, lawyers Murnie Hidayah Anuar and Mohd Afiq Mohamad Noor filed the writ of habeas corpus on Hamza’s behalf, naming the inspector-general of police, immigration director-general, home minister and the Malaysian Government as respondents.

On Feb 22, the Kuala Lumpur High Court allowed the respondents’ preliminary objection to strike out Hamza’s application on grounds that the issue of habeas corpus had become academic because Hamza was no longer in Malaysia as he had since been deported.

He then filed an appeal to the Federal Court. Hamza, who writes for the Jeddah-based Al Bilad newspaper, allegedly posted blasphemous tweets on Prophet Muhammad’s birthday but they were deleted the following day, from his Twitter account.

In today’s court proceedings, the panel heard submissions from Hamza’s counsel, Amer Hamzah Arshad, and Senior Federal Counsel Amir Nasaruddin for the respondents.

Amer Hamzah argued that although Hamza was deported, there was still a live issue for the court to determine.

He said the High Court had the power and jurisdiction to proceed and hear the matter to decide whether his arrest and deportation was lawful or not, and subsequently, make an order of compensation for depriving him of his fundamental rights.

Amir, meanwhile, argued that the law stated that the only remedy available to a person who filed a habeas corpus application was to secure his release. He said the person could not seek relief, other than his release in a habeas corpus application.

Mohd Afiq told reporters that Hamza was still in detention in Saudi Arabia but he had not been charged.

He said he would seek instruction from Hamza’s family whether or not to file a civil suit for declaration that his (Hamza’s) arrest and deportation was unlawful, and seek damages.