PUTRAJAYA: A lawyer has argued that any law that regulates in any way the renouncing or changing of faith by a Muslim is inconsistent with the fundamental right to freedom of religion as enshrined in the Constitution.
In an apostasy case involving four people from Kelantan, counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who made the submission before a five-man panel made up of Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, Federal Court judges Justices Mohd Noor Ahmad, P.S. Gill and Rahmah Hussain and Court of Appeal judge Justice Richard Malanjum, said:
The freedom to profess and practise faith necessarily in- cludes the freedom to renounce and change a given faith.
The appellants renunciation of the Islamic faith is valid in law and fact, Malik said, adding that such freedom was available to all persons including adult Muslims.
Malik was representing Mat Yaakub Ismail, 56, Kamariah Ali, 51, and Daud Mamat, 72, who finished serving two-thirds of a three-year jail sentence imposed by the Kota Baru Syariah Appeals Court on Nov 19, 2000, for contempt of court after they failed to attend repentance classes.
Kamariahs husband Moha- mad Ya was a co-appellant but he died last month at the age of 57.
The appellants named the Kelantan Islamic State Religious Council and the Kelantan government as respondents in their appeal.
The four obtained leave from the Federal Court on Nov 5, last year, to appeal against the Court of Appeals decision that their detention for repentance classes pending an official confirmation of their renunciation by the Syariah Court was constitutional.
The Court of Appeal had also dismissed their appeals to be released from the Pengkalan Chepa prisons which they claimed were unlawful detentions, saying that the section of the Islamic law used by the Syariah High Court to convict and sentence them was in tandem with provisions of the Federal Constitution.
Kelantan Islamic authorities had accused the four of indulging in deviant activities in 1992.
In 1996, they were ordered by the Syariah Appeals Court to attend repentance classes. They refused, and were charged in November 1999 with contempt of court.
They were found guilty and sent to jail.
However, when their defence was called before the Syariah Appeals Court in November 1999, the four declared they were no longer Muslims, and as such the court had no jurisdiction over them.
The Syariah prosecutor then laid an additional charge of attempting to leave Islam against them.
Hearing continues today.