KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — The Sessions Court erred in imposing a maximum one-year imprisonment sentence on a youth for insulting the Johor crown prince on Facebook, a lawyer said, claiming it appeared the court had not taken several mitigating factors into consideration.
Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan said 19-year-old labourer Muhammad Amirul Azwan Mohd Shakri, who was unrepresented, should have been entitled to a discount in the sentence as the young man had pleaded guilty to charges under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 on the improper use of network facilities or network service.
“Instead of taking into account his guilty plea, the learned Sessions Court judge imposed the maximum sentence for the offence,” Syahredzan wrote on his Facebook page.
“This is clearly an error on the part of the Sessions Court judge. To say the sentence is excessive is an understatement. I am not sure if this is his first offence, but if it is, it should also be taken into account by the learned Sessions Court judge.
“Other mitigating factors such as his age and the fact that there is no 'victim' in this crime appear to not have been taken into account by the Sessions Court judge,” the lawyer added.
National newswire Bernama reported that Johor Baru Sessions Court judge Sabariah Atan sentenced Muhammad Amirul Azwan yesterday to a year’s jail for each of the 14 counts of posting insulting comments against Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim on his Facebook account “Miyo Castello” with the intention of hurting the prince’s feelings. The judge ordered that the jail sentences be served concurrently.
Local daily The Star reported deputy public prosecutor Nor Azizah Mohamad as saying that ignorance of the law was not an excuse for Muhammad Amirul Azwan’s actions and asked the court for a reasonable sentence against the youth who reportedly could not afford to go to school.
“A word of note on the Deputy Public Prosecutor as well — she may be acting for the State, but she has a duty to also inform the court of the factors that should mitigate against the boy's sentence,” Syahredzan said in response.
“The biggest tragedy of all is that this boy is unrepresented. Something is wrong with the system if it has not been made known to this boy of his right to legal representation.
“There seems to be a trend these days where the authorities come down hard on those who 'insult' VIPs. Sorry, but it is not the State's business to regulate manners. It is also not the State's business to ensure feelings of important people are not hurt,” said the lawyer.
The court’s harsh sentence against the youth came despite Tunku Ismail saying last month that those who insult him online should not be arrested, but be allowed to say what they want to him in person.