Malaysia achieves another first: Christian woman convicted of Khalwat


( – A Syariah Court of Appeal today set aside a preliminary objection by the prosecution against a Catholic Indonesian woman who was sentenced for khalwat (close proximity) in February 2012.

Reflexologist Halimah (no last name) heaved a small sigh of relief when she learnt that the panel of judges decided on the objection but is uncertain if she would be able to attend her daughter’s wedding in May.

The 42-year-old is appealing to quash the conviction under Section 27(b) of the Criminal Offences of Penang Enactment 1996 which required her to serve a 14-day jail sentence and pay the RM3,000 fine.

However, Halimah, who was unrepresented when the charge was read out and instantly sentenced, posted RM3,000 bail pending a stay on decision while applying for leave to appeal to High Court, said her lawyer Wan Faridulhadi Mohd Yusoff.

He said as a result of Halimah’s timid demeanour and illiteracy, she allegedly ‘froze’ when asked to prove her case in the Syariah Lower Court on Feb 28, 2012.

“She was allegedly overcome with fear when asked to state her plea after being charged. When she was brought to the lower court, she told me she did not understand what was being said. On top of that, she was unrepresented.

“After the court officer read out the charge sheet to her, she admitted to the facts of the case. However, the officer did not read out the part that her religion was written as Islam.

“So, she said yes to the charge sheet without realising she said yes to the religion. She told me she was afraid and did not understand what was being said,” he said.

At about 11.40am on Dec 8, 2011, Halimah was caught by six Penang Islamic Religious Department (Jaip) enforcement officers while she was attending to a non-Muslim customer at a reflexology centre at Jalan Seang Tek.

The mother of four from Bandung, Indonesia said although her mother was Muslim and her father was Catholic, she never practised either religion but her children were christened in church.