GEORGE TOWN: In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the country, an illiterate Catholic woman is appealing against her conviction by the Syariah Court here for committing khalwat (close proximity) with a non-Muslim at a massage spa.
Spa therapist Halimah, 42, from Bandung, has filed an application to the Syariah Court of Appeal for leave to appeal against the 14-day jail term and RM3,000 fine imposed by the Syariah Lower Court on May 15, 2012.
She had pleaded guilty to committing khalwat with a male customer, who was 38 then, at the spa in Jalan Seang Teik here, where she was working at 11.40am on Dec 8, 2011.
Halimah, who was unrepresented on the day of the sentencing, was allowed stay of execution pending appeal, with a bail of RM3,000.
She subsequently engaged counsel Wan Faridulhadi Mohd Yusoff and appealed to the Syariah High Court on Dec 3, 2012.
On Sept 9 last year, the Syariah High Court dismissed her appeal and upheld her conviction and sentence. Her bail was extended pending her appeal to the Syariah Court of Appeal.
When the case was called up Tuesday, the Syariah Court of Appeal sitting here, dismissed a preliminary objection by Chief Syariah prosecutor Mohammad Zulkhairi Aziz against the application, and ordered the prosecution to file its affidavit-in-reply to the matter.
The judges – Ibrahim Lembut, Hussin Harun and Yusuf Che Teh – held that the preliminary objection had been raised on forgiveable technical issues, which would not adversely affect either side.
Halimah, who was baptised a Catholic in Medan on June 19, 1982, said her father was a Christian and her mother a Muslim.
Halimah’s employer Datin Josephine Ong had brought the case to the attention of the Legal Aid Centre (LAC), and its consultant Cecil Rajendra held a watching brief for Ong Tuesday.
Cecil said the LAC was asking that the case be declared void ab initio (treated as invalid from the outset) as under Section 74 of the Islamic Religious Administration (Penang) Enactment, the Syariah Court had no jurisdiction whatsoever over a non-Muslim.
In her affidavit, Halimah said the Syariah Court had no jurisdiction in the case and that her confession and plea of guilt were made under duress.
Also enclosed were her baptism certificate and another document known as the Family Card which stated that Halimah and her husband and children were all Catholics, and a letter from the Indonesian Consulate verifying the authenticity of the documents.
No date has been fixed for the prosecution to file its affidavit-in-reply and for the leave application to be heard.
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