School teacher in drug case wins appeal against death sentence

KOTA KINABALU: A former international school teacher from Subang Jaya, Selangor escaped the gallows when the Federal Court allowed for her appeal against a Kota Kinabalu High Court death sentence in 2017 for drug trafficking to be set aside.

The three-member Federal Court bench allowed Suhailah Abdullah's appeal and her conviction on drug trafficking while reducing the charge to only one of possession under 39A(2)(r) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

According to Suhailah’s lawyer Datuk Rakbhir Singh, the Federal Court sentenced her to 10 years imprisonment from the date of her arrest.

He said the decision was made by Federal Court judges led by the Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf together with Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli and Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohammed Hashim after he and the prosecution's Zaki Asyraf Zubir made their submissions on Tuesday (Sept 2).

Rakhbir said Suhailah was set to walk free immediately from the Kajang Women Prison as she had already served the jail sentence.

"She thanked the judges for giving her a new lease of life," he said.

Suhailah was arrested on May 27, 2013 when she was found with methamphetamine weighing 959.5 grams in the luggage bag she was carrying at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport. She had arrived from New Delhi after a transit in Singapore.

Customs officers initially found new clothes in plastics but on further ripping open the bag, they found the drugs in plastic packets secretly stashed within it.

She was charged for trafficking drugs under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act at the Kota Kinabalu High Court in 2013 where trial judge Justice Chew Soo Ho ruled that he did not find a case of trafficking against Suhailah as she was only in possession where she was convicted and imprisoned for 14 years from date of arrest.

However, the prosecution appealed to the Court of Appeal which on July 18, 2016 ordered Suhailah to enter her defence on the original charge of drug trafficking.

High Court Judge Datuk Nurchaya Arshad found her guilty on June 23, 2017 and sentenced her to death by hanging.

Suhaila's counsel appealed against the High Court's decision with the Court of Appeal but was dismissed on Aug 6, 2018. He subsequently appealed to the Federal Court.

Rakhbir said one of the key arguments of his defence was that Suhaila was tricked into believing two Nigerians in New Delhi to help them pass a bag containing clothes to their Nigerian friends in Malaysia.

He said Suhaila believed them and decided to assist them to carry the luggage bag but did not know of the hidden drugs.

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