After nearly seven years in court, Home Ministry to release Sarawakian Christian’s ‘Allah’ CDs tomorrow

File picture shows Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s lawyer Annou Xavier at the Kuala Lumpur High Court. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
File picture shows Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s lawyer Annou Xavier at the Kuala Lumpur High Court. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 — The Home Ministry has told Sarawakian Christian Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill that her eight compact discs containing the word “Allah” that were seized seven years ago will be returned to her tomorrow, her lawyer has confirmed.

Annou Xavier, who represents Jill Ireland, said he received a letter from the Home Ministry today informing him of the release of the seized items.

“The letter is addressed to my client or my firm, asking me to collect the CDs from the Home Ministry,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

Annou said the CDs will be collected from the Home Ministry’s branch at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which had sent the letter.

“Either my client or her pastor will be going,” he said, referring to SIB church’s Pastor Alfred Tais.

According to the letter dated September 2 that was sighted by Malay Mail Online, the Home Ministry’s Publications and Quranic Text Control Division from the KLIA branch said it wanted to return the CDs based on the “orders” of the ministry’s legal adviser.

Less than a month ago, government lawyer Shamsul Bolhassan told Malay Mail Online that the Home Ministry will abide by the Court of Appeal’s order to return the eight CDs to Jill Ireland.

Shamsul had then said that the Attorney-General’s Chambers had already “directed” the Home Ministry to return the seized materials and confirmed the ministry would not appeal against the court order. He did not specify the release date then.

On June 23, the Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s decision when ruling unanimously in favour of Jill Ireland and ordering the Home Ministry to return the CDs it had seized from the Melanau native in 2008.

Despite spending almost seven years locked in a legal dispute with the Home Ministry and winning at the Court of Appeal, Jill Ireland’s battle in the courts is not entirely over yet.

Having won the return of the eight CDs, Jill Ireland will still have to return to the Kuala Lumpur High Court, where it will decide on two constitutional issues relating to her right to religious freedom and equality before the law.

One of the constitutional matters is Jill Ireland’s application for a court declaration that she has the right to import the CDs, as provided for by the Federal Constitution’s Article 8 that guarantees freedom of religion.

This would involve her right to practise her own religion and right to education.

The High Court will also decide on Jill Ireland’s bid for a declaration that the Constitution’s Article 11 guarantees her equality before the law and protection from discrimination on grounds of religion in the administration of law ― especially the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Customs Act 1967.

The whole legal dispute was sparked off by the Home Ministry’s May 11, 2008 seizure of Jill Ireland’s eight CDs at the Sepang airport upon her return from Indonesia, which led to the Bumiputera Christian filing for judicial review in August the same year against the Home Minister and the government of Malaysia.

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