Teacher escapes the gallows

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

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

They imposed a 10-year imprisonment from the date of arrest for the lesser charge, according to Suhailah’s lawyer Datuk Rakhbir Singh.

His client is set to walk free immediately from Kajang Women’s Prison as she has already served her sentence.

“She thanked the judges for giving her a new lease on life,” he said.

Rakhbir said the decision was made by Federal Court judges – led by Court of Appeal president Rohana Yusuf together with Abdul Rahman Sebli and Hasnah Mohammed Hashim – after both he and the prosecution’s Zaki Asyraf Zubir made their submissions on Tuesday.

Suhailah was arrested on May 27, 2013, when she was found with methamphetamine weighing 959.5g in the luggage bag that she was carrying at Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

She had arrived in the Sabah capital from New Delhi via Singapore carrying a bag that was scanned by Customs officers at the airport.

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

She was charged with trafficking 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 of the drugs.

Justice Chew found a case of possession against Suhailah and jailed her for 14 years from the date of arrest.

However, the prosecution appealed the decision.

On July 18, 2016, the Court of Appeal then ordered Suhailah to enter her defence on the original charge of drug trafficking.

By this time, Justice Chew had retired and her defence was heard by a different High Court judge, Nurchaya Arshad, who on June 23, 2017, convicted Suhailah of drug trafficking and sentenced her to death by hanging.

Suhailah’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 Suhailah was tricked into helping two Nigerians in New Delhi to hand over a bag containing clothes to their Nigerian friends in Malaysia.

He said Suhailah believed them and decided to assist them in carrying the luggage bag but did not know of the hidden drugs.

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