High Court frees Indonesian man who was caned while waiting for appeal

KOTA KINABALU: A migrant worker, who was whipped while appealing his conviction for staying illegally in Malaysia, has been acquitted by the Tawau High Court.

Justice Lim Hock Leng acquitted Indonesian worker Sabri Umar on Friday (July 22) following his appeal against his conviction by the Sessions Court on April 19 this year.

Sabri was sentenced to 11 months’ jail and five strokes of the rotan under Section 6(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 after he pleaded guilty to the offence.

The High Court judgment came after lawyers from legal firm Jussary Kang, representing the Indonesia Consulate Tawau branch, took up Sabri's case for wrongful imprisonment.

Sabri's lawyers argued that he was in possession of a valid Indonesian passport and had a work pass from a company, Fu Yee Corporation.

The court was told that Sabri, who was unrepresented when he was charged at the Tawau Sessions Court, had pleaded guilty in the mistaken belief that he would be deported in May 2022.

They argued that though he pleaded guilty, the Sessions Court did not check that Sabri had a valid passport when pleading for the High Court to set aside the conviction.

The court was told that Sabri was caned on June 23 despite his case being appealed since April 21, this year.

Sabri's case drew strong condemnation from human rights groups after he was caned at the Tawau prison despite his appeal against the conviction yet to be heard by the Tawau High Court.

In a joint statement released on July 19, 24 NGOs led by the Malaysian Representative at Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Pacific Region said that the whipping was wrongful.

The groups also called on the government to issue an apology and the abolition of whipping as a sentence.

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