Sunday 8 July 2012

Jawi wants Borders case quickly disposed off

The Federal Territory Islamic Affairs department (Jawi) has asked that its prosecution on Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz from the Borders bookstore be quickly disposed.

This would free it to explain its position to the media and bloggers.

NONENik Raina, a store manager at Border's Gardens bookstore, was charged last month with distributing Irshad Manji's book ‘Allah, Love and Liberty'.

However Jawi acted on May 23 but the book was officially announced as banned by the Home Ministry's publication unit only May 29.

The issue has led to a lively debate and criticisim in the public domain, particularly in the media and among bloggers.

In a letter dated June 27 to the Kuala Lumpur Syariah High Court, Jawi said the case is of public interest and feared its discussion would disrupt its running.

The letter, signed by Jawi's chief prosecutor Ibrahim Deris, was also sent to Nik Raina's lawyers, Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill.

Nik Raina is being prosecuted by Jawi as she is Muslim, although she is not involved in the selection of books sold in the shop.

That power lies with its assistant general manager (operations and merchandising) of Borders, Stephen Fung Wye Keong, a non-Muslim.

However, Jawi cannot charge a non-Muslim or a company in court and as a result it has picked on Nik Raina to take the rap.

Following this conflict Borders parent company Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd, filed a judicial review in the civil courts and on June 25, it was granted leave to challenge Jawi's action by the KL High Court (Appellate and Special Powers division).

Two days later Ibrahim sent a letter to the KL Syariah High Court requesting to speed up proceedings.
To Borders credit, its senior management has been supportive of Nik Raina in dealing with these legal issues.

They have also issued a strong press statement condemning the charge.

Lawyers object

However the lawyers for the bookstore object to Jawi's application to speed up the case.

In a letter dated July 5, they wrote back to the KL Syariah High Court. They pointed out that before the case was brought to court on June 19, they had written on June 8 to defer the proceedings against Nik Raina, but this was ignored by Ibrahim.

The lawyers also cited on the June 19 morning, they had asked to adjourn the charging of Nik Raina, but the chief prosecutor refused to consider its request, which the judge said was within Ibrahim's discretion.

After Nik Raina was charged, the Syariah High Court judge set Sept 19 as the date for mention and Ibrahim did not object to this, the letter states.

The lawyers cited Ibrahim's action as bordering on prosecutorial misconduct in wanting to have these legal proceedings sped up just to rebut statements and criticism made by media and bloggers, whereas the Syariah court had allowed the September date in view of the judicial review application.

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