Thursday, November 19, 2009

Asri Charged

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 18, 2009) : Former Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin was today charged in the Gombak Timur Lower Syariah Court with teaching matters related to the religion of Islam without "tauliah" (authorisation) from Selangor Islamic Religious Council.

(L-R)Former Perlis MB Datuk Seri Shahidan Kasim talk with
Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin at Gombak Timur
Syariah Court today.
Mohd Asri @ Abu Talib, 38, who is currently a Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) lecturer, denied committing the alleged offence in a house in Taman Sri Ukay Ampang, Gombak, between 8.10pm and 9.45pm on Nov 1.

The charge carries a maximum RM3,000 fine or two years jail upon conviction.

Syariah judge Wan Mahyuddin Wan Mohamad granted RM3,000 bail with two sureties and set Jan 5 for a hearing. Asri, who was clad in a black blazer and songkok, posted bail.

When the case commenced at 9.15am in a packed court room, the charge was read out to Asri who said: "I plead not guilty, claim trial."

Selangor Syarie chief prosecutor Abdul Shukor Abdul Hamid applied for the case to be transferred to the Syariah High Court saying that a supporting affidavit was filed on Nov 12, stating the grounds for the transfer.

He said the application for the transfer was made through power vested under the laws to the Syariah chief prosecutor.

He said the case involved application of law and procedures that required views and accurate interpretations by an experienced judge and that the case received wide coverage involving an influential person.

However, Asri's lawyer Kamar Ainiah Kamaruzaman said the accused was only informed in the morning and that they had no opportunity to file a reply.

She also objected to the charge, saying it did not specify or had details for them to prepare a defence.

"It's blur. What is the meaning of teaching aspects related to religion of Islam without 'tauliah'?" she asked.

Zulkifli Noordin

Another lawyer Jamal Mohd Lokman Sulaiman, who is also representing Asri, argued that the supporting affidavit was filed on Nov 12 when the charge was only presented this morning.

He said the Lower Syariah Court judge was qualified to hear the case and if the case was tried in a Lower Syariah Court, the accused could appeal to the Syariah High Court and the Syariah Appeal Court.

"The fact that the accused is an influential person is irrelevent," he added.

Wan Mahyuddin then rejected the prosecution's application for transfer saying the prosecution had failed to state reasonable grounds.

He reasoned that a transfer to the High Court could only be allowed if the prosecution had reasonable grounds.

"Public interest is important and not individual interest," he said, adding that the case should be speeded up as a transfer would cause delays and delays could prejudice the accused.

"The grounds that he is influential is unreasonable for the case to be transferred to the Syariah High Court. The prosecution can have complete trust in this court to handle the case.

"In this court's view, the prosecution must be consistent, not referring to individual involvement. The accused being known to the public will not affect the delivery of justice," he said.

Wan Mahyuddin said hearing of the case in the lower court would also allow the accused to appeal to the Syariah High Court and Syariah Appeal Court.

Former Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, Kulim Bandar Baru MP Zulkifli Noordin and Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir were also in the court premises.

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