New turn: Halimah (centre) with her employer Datin Josephine Chan (left) and Rajendra during the press conference at Jalan Melayu in Penang.
GEORGE TOWN: The case of an Indonesian woman convicted for khalwat and waiting for her appeal to be heard, has taken an unexpected turn.
The Syariah Court of Appeal has struck out her conviction and a subsequent decision by the Syariah High Court that upheld the verdict.
The case of the 42-year-old spa worker, known only by her single name Halimah, has now been directed for retrial at the lower Syariah Court that had first sentenced her to a 14-day jail term and RM3,000 fine on Feb 28, 2012.
The decision, made in chambers by three Syariah Appeal judges on June 5, was stated in an order obtained by lawyer Cecil Rajendra who is holding a watching brief for the Malaysian Bar Council.
They conceded she is a Catholic and was, therefore, not bound by Syariah laws.
The mother of four from Bandung had pleaded guilty in the lower court with committing khalwat with a non-Muslim at the spa she was working at in Jalan Seang Teik here at 11.40am on Dec 8, 2011.
She was unrepresented and had just nodded when the charge was read out to her on Feb 28, 2012, as she was illiterate.
The lower court sentenced her but allowed a stay of execution pending her appeal, with a bail of RM3,000.
Last September, the Syariah High Court dismissed her appeal and she then turned to the appellant court.
Halimah’s appeal drew media attention as it was believed to be the first case in the country of a non-Muslim woman convicted for committing khalwat with a fellow non-Muslim.
Speaking at a press conference here yesterday, in which Halimah was present, Rajendra said the appellant court had struck out both her conviction in the lower Syariah Court and the decision of the Syariah High Court.
“There was no case against Halimah as, under Section 74 of the Religious Enactment Act, the Syariah Court has no jurisdiction over non-Muslims,” said Rajendra .
“The Syariah Court of Appeal has directed her case to be heard again in the lower court,” he said, adding that a date has yet to be set for the re-trial.
It is learnt, the Indonesian consul-general here had, in a letter dated April 28 this year, requested the Penang chief Syariah judge for the khalwat case against Halimah to be reviewed and withdrawn since she is a Catholic and did not fall under the Syariah Court’s jurisdiction.