After civil court victory, Kassim Ahmad hopes Jawi will drop Shariah charges

kassim_ahmad Rosli Dahlan

Kassim Ahmad (right) and his lawyer, Rosli Dahlan

(Malay Mail Online) – Muslim intellectual Kassim Ahmad said today he hopes the Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) will drop all Shariah charges against him for allegedly insulting Islam and defying religious authorities after the civil courts’ ruling this morning that his detention and arrest had been unlawful.

The 82-year-old scholar also thanked God for the favourable outcome in his judicial review bid.

“Alhamdulilah (Thank God), we have won and I hope Jawi will withdraw its charges against me,” he told reporters here, after the Court of Appeal delivered its decision.

The cane-wielding Kassim who was accompanied by his wife, two children and grandchildren, will not know his fate in the Shariah court until January 18 when the case comes up for mention.

The trial for the two Shariah charges that could potentially land him in jail has yet to start.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, one of the Federal Territories resident who posted bail for Kassim when he was charged in the Shariah court last March, said “justice has prevailed” today with the “great ending” to this year.

The prominent activist told reporters that Jawi should withdraw its charges against Kassim, relating the “heartbreaking” scene where the Kedah resident was arrested in his home and brought to Putrajaya to be charged.

“They should, he’s an old man, what they did to him by any counts was unjust ― raid, arrest, take him by plane.

“I saw him that morning and it was heartbreaking, look at him you know, I think just the visual of that, we can see it’s wrong,” said Marina.

Kassim’s lead counsel Rosli Dahlan said he will write to JAWI’s chief syarie prosecutor to get the Shariah case dropped although he had already told the religious body’s lawyer and representative that it would be nice for them to retract the charges voluntarily “without being told to do so”.

He said he had conveyed the hope that there will be an end to the matter “which is totally unnecessary and distresses society in a very confusing way”.

“But now that there is a conclusive decision by the Court of Appeal, I think it will be honorable on their part to withdraw,” he told reporters here, also expressing confidence that the religious authority would behave in a reasonable manner.

“What you have seen actually is the court saying their actions were not in accordance with their own laws, their own Shariah laws,” he said of the challenge against JAWI’s procedure and process in arresting, detaining and charging Kassim.

Former de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who was also present in the courtroom earlier, said the ruling today reaffirmed the position that the civil courts have “supervisory powers” over the Shariah courts, which he said was just like other tribunals.

“I am very happy that there is a clear statement that Shariah courts are subordinate courts, I mean this has always been the position but judges don’t accept…Shariah courts are just like other tribunals,” he told reporters here.

Earlier, the Court of Appeal unanimously found Jawi’s actions ― including a cross-border arrest using a defective warrant, a detention exceeding 24 hours without access to lawyers, his prosecution ― to be illegal.

The Court of Appeal set aside the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s dismissal of Kassim’s legal challenge against Jawi, where High Court judge Datuk Asmabi Mohamad ruled that he should sue to protect his constitutional rights instead of pursuing a judicial review.

The four respondents in Kassim’s judicial review bid are the minister in charge of Islamic affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, Jawi, then Federal Territory chief Syarie Prosecutor Ibrahim Deris and the government.

Kassim’s challenge argued that the Islamic authority had acted with illegality, irrationality, procedural impropriety, unconstitutionality, ultra vires or acting beyond powers, abuse of discretionary power and unreasonable exercise of power.

In March last year, Kassim was charged at the Shariah High Court in Putrajaya with insulting Islam and defying religious authorities at a seminar in February that was officiated by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Kassim had pleaded not guilty to two separate charges under Section 7(b) and Section 9 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 that both carry a maximum fine of RM3,000 or imprisonment up to two years, or both.