Prosecution wins appeal against Yazid Sufaat’s acquittal over terror charge

(The Star) – The Court of Appeal has ordered the terrorism case of former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee Yazid Sufaat to be heard before a new High Court judge.

The panel led by Justice Abu Samah Nordin allowed the prosecution’s appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision to acquit and discharge Yazid and cafeteria helper Muhammad Hilmi Hasim of charges of promoting acts of terrorism in strife-torn Syria.

“The learned judge had erred in his interpretation of the charges. It did not refer to acts of terrorism outside the country,” Justice Abu Samah said Tuesday.

He added that counsel for Yazid, Amer Hamzah Arshad had conceded that threats to security could come from within or outside the country.

“The judge also misconstrued Article 149 (of the Federal Constitution), the charge against the respondents (Yazid and Muhammad Hilmi) are within the scope of Article 149,” ruled Justice Abu Samah.

The panel, which also included Justices Zawawi Salleh and Azhar Mohamed, remitted the case back to the Kuala Lumpur High Court and fixed June 24 for next mention.

The court also set Aug 5 for the case mention of religious teacher Halimah Hussein, charged with abetting Yazid in the same case.

Counsel Amer applied for a stay of proceedings, saying that the High Court had ordered all three be tried together pending the appeal.

Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria raised no objection to the application, which was allowed by the panel.

The Court of Appeal had, on May 31, issued a warrant of arrest for Halimah, who is the second respondent in the prosecution’s appeal and has so far failed to appear in court.

Amer had submitted that even if the case was ordered to go to trial, it should be done through the Criminal Procedure Code, not the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) which would deny the accused certain liberties in the trial.

“Let us see their witnesses face to face, so we can cross examine them, not have them hidden behind some veil of secrecy,” said Amer.

Under Sosma, the prosecution would be allowed to use witness testimony without requiring the witness to attend court.

On Feb 8, Yazid was charged with promoting acts of terrorism in Syria.

Halimah and Muhammad Hilmi were later charged with abetting Yazid at a house in Ampang between August and October, last year.

The three were alleged to have “threatened the public in Syria” with these acts, the penalty for which is up to 30 years’ jail and a fine under Section 130G (a) of the Penal Code.

They were the first people to be arrested under Sosma.

On May 20, High Court Judge Kamardin Hashim ruled that the Act could not be used against the three, as it was went beyond the scope of Article 149 of the Federal Constitution, which covered only domestic terrorism.

He said Sosma could not be used as a procedure to prove the charge against Yazid, 49, Muhammad Hilmi, 33, and Halimah, 52.

Yazid was detained under the ISA in 2001 for seven years on suspicion of being involved with the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group.