Indonesian Christian free after Islamic court lifts khalwat conviction

Halimah cries tears of joy after the Shariah lower court acquitted and discharged her of khalwat. Her lawyer Wan Faridulhadi is see on the left. — Picture by K.E.Ooi
Halimah cries tears of joy after the Shariah lower court acquitted and discharged her of khalwat. Her lawyer Wan Faridulhadi is see on the left. — Picture by K.E.Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 26 — Convicted of khalwat, Indonesian Christian Halimah wept tears of joy after the Penang Shariah Court finally freed her today of the close proximity charge which had been hanging over her head for the past two years.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you everyone for helping me,” the 42-year-old reflexologist said, offering her heartfelt gratitude to her employer Datin Josephine Ong, her lawyers, the Indonesian Consul-General for helping her with the case and reporters in court.

This morning, Penang’s Lower Shariah Court judge Zaini Abd Rahim ordered Halimah discharged and acquitted of khalwat — an offence under Malaysia’s Shariah laws applicable only on Muslims — after the state Shariah chief prosecutor Azman Ismail withdrew the charge.

On behalf of the prosecutor, Shariah prosecution officer Mohd Fahmie made the application under Section 103 of the Penang Shariah Procedure Enactment, which allows for the chief prosecution officer to withdraw a charge at any stage.

“The court allows this application and so the court orders that Halimah be discharged and acquitted of the charge immediately,” Zaini ruled.

He also allowed an application by Halimah’s counsel, Wan Faridulhadi Mohamed Yusof, for the RM3,000 bail to be returned.

The Indonesian, born a Catholic, was accused of being in close proximity with a person of the opposite gender who is not her spouse or relative at a reflexology centre along Jalan Seang Teik at 11.40am on December 8, 2011.

Halimah pleaded guilty to the charge before the Penang Shariah Court on May 15, 2012 due to confusion over the meaning of the offence as she was not represented at that time.

She was subsequently sentenced to jail for 14 days and fined RM3,000 but was allowed a stay of execution pending an appeal.

Wan Faridulhadi submitted her appeal to the Penang Shariah High Court but the lower court decision was upheld so they submitted another appeal to the Shariah Court of Appeal.

The case was pending in the Shariah Court of Appeal for several months before a panel of judges delivered a decision on June 5 which struck off her appeal against the decision and conviction while ordering a retrial.

In July this year, a second panel of the Shariah Court of Appeal reaffirmed the June 5 decision and ordered for a retrial of the whole case.

The Indonesian Consul General Ronald P.Manik intervened in the case by writing to the Shariah Court of Appeal to request for updates on the progress of the case back in April this year.

Manik emphasised that Halimah is a Catholic and as such, does not fall under the Shariah Court’s jurisdiction.

In his letter, he requested that the case against her be reviewed and withdrawn.

“I am so glad that this is over and I can go to work without having the fear of this case hanging over me,” Halimah said outside the courtroom.

She said she had missed her daughter’s May wedding but now she will concentrate on saving up so that she can go back to Indonesia next month.

“All these years, I’ve been feeling so afraid and in limbo over this case,” she said, and voiced her gladness for having a supportive employer who stood by her throughout the trial.

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