KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 — A husband and his wife today sued the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (JAWI) for raiding and arresting them for khalwat or close proximity.
Mohd Ridhuan Giman, 34, and Siti Sarah Maulad Abdullah, 26, who have been married for three years, are demanding an apology from JAWI for their traumatic experience that resulted in injuries and their wrongful detention even after showing proof of their marriage.
According to their lawyer Yusfarizal Yussoff, an enforcement team from JAWI consisting of seven male officers and one female officer had raided the couple’s budget hotel room in Kuala Lumpur on January 8 at about 1.30am.
Yusfarizal said the male officers had forcefully entered the hotel room despite being told by Mohd Ridhuan that his wife inside was not dressed appropriately, adding that it resulted in a scuffle that caused the husband’s neck to be injured due to alleged strangulation.
“Although the husband had repeatedly told the said officers that they are husband and wife and showed the officers the photo of their marriage certificate on his hand phone, the officers refused to accept the explanation.
“Instead, the male officers had directed the wife, in front of her own husband, to put on her clothes in front of the male officers. One of the officers kept on taking pictures and video despite being told of our client’s marital status,” he told reporters at the court complex here immediately after filing the lawsuit.
According to court documents, the wife was only wearing a sleeveless singlet with thin straps and shorts — a condition which should not be viewed by men who are not “muhrim” or the immediate family members of a woman — when the male enforcement officers barged in and saw her.
The husband was brought to the hotel lobby, while the wife protested a male enforcement officer’s presence inside the hotel room and sought privacy to dress, the document said.
The female enforcement officer had finally entered the hotel room and directed the wife to dress in the attached bathroom, but the wife refused as it had transparent glass walls, resulting in the wife being ordered to dress with the door to the hotel room open as the officers waited outside.
When the wife attempted to close the room door to protect her dignity as a woman, one of the male officers allegedly forcefully pushed the door and the wife’s chest, with this scuffle also resulting in bruises to her left arm, the document said.
The couple said they were brought to a police station where their arrest was reported as being over a khalwat offence, before being brought to JAWI’s office where they were detained in two separate locked rooms for about an hour.
The husband’s mother then came to JAWI’s office and presented the original copy of the couple’s marriage certificate — which had been issued by JAWI, but JAWI’s enforcement officers allegedly refused to accept it as proof of their marriage and to release them.
The enforcement officers instead forced the mother to sign a personal bond to give her personal assurance that the couple would return for investigations on January 17 and which would compel her to pay RM3,000 if they did not show up.
Despite the mother’s refusal to sign the personal bond as the certificate had been produced and no khalwat offence was committed, the officers insisted on her signing to secure the duo’s release, the court document said.
After the mother signed, the duo were finally released after they were also both forced to sign a personal bond stating that they were arrested for the khalwat offence under Section 27(b) of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997.
Under Section 27(b), a woman found with at least one man who is not her husband or “mahram” (immediate family members) in any secluded place or a house or room under circumstances which raises suspicion that they were “engaged in immoral acts” are liable to a maximum RM3,000 fine or to a maximum two-year jail term or both.
The couple and the mother are suing for wrongful arrest, wrongful confinement, trespass to person, violation of privacy, tort of abuse of office and violation of the duo’s rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement under the Federal Constitution's Articles 5 and 9.
They are suing two of the JAWI enforcement officers who have been identified as Mohd Shiham Ramli, Mohammad Izehar Md Amin; JAWI chief religious enforcement officer, JAWI director-general, JAWI, the Prime Minister’s Department and the government of Malaysia.
Claiming that the raid had breached the Shariah Criminal Procedure (Federal Territories) Act 1997, the couple are now seeking compensation in the form of general damages for the injury to their reputation and indignity suffered as well as “trauma”, besides the duo’s physical injury that required treatment at Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
They are also seeking aggravated damages, exemplary damages, a court order instructing JAWI to drop the investigation, as well as an unconditional apology in the form of a letter to the them and in at least two Malay-language newspapers.
Yusfarizal explained that the lawsuit was filed after JAWI failed to respond to two letters of demand dated January 11 and January 19 that were hand delivered ― with the second received directly by JAWI's director general, while the court document said that JAWI had following the first letter instead fixed January 19 for the couple to appear at JAWI's office for investigation.