NGOs back revising case of man jailed 10 years over Facebook post

Spokesman for a coalition of seven civil societies Alim Mideh (left) speaks to reporters in Kuching March 11, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Spokesman for a coalition of seven civil societies Alim Mideh (left) speaks to reporters in Kuching March 11, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, March 11 — A coalition of seven civil societies today expressed support to revise the case of a potentially mentally ill man who was jailed 10 years and fined RM50,000 for insulting Islam on Facebook.

Spokesman Alim Mideh said Alister Cogia, 22, was not represented by a legal counsel when he pleaded guilty to five charges of causing disunity on grounds of religion and another five charges of making offensive comments online.

“We do not know if he really understood the charges and the consequences of pleading guilty,” Alim told reporters.

“Every accused has the right to be heard and be accorded the legal and advice since the charges against him carried severe penalties,” he said.

He asked why Alister was not accorded legal assistance before his guilty plea and sentencing was made before the court.

He said the prosecution should have told the court of the mental conditions of the accused at the material time.

“In the course of conducting investigation, the police investigating officer should have known that Alister is not mentally stable.

“Since small, he used to be frequently ill. He gradually became introvert and preferred to keep to himself in his room.

“Occasionally, he would get very irritated and angry and would curse and swear at people passing his house in Bau,” Alim said.

He said Alister had also defamed Christianity and Adat Asal on Facebook.

“In Bidayuh language, he is considered as ‘bako’, but is yet to be called mad. He is just mentally unstable,” he said.

Alim said the coalition was of the view that the correct procedure would be to subject him to observation to determine his mental status and to see if he was capable of understanding what he has done or to be fully responsible for his actions.

“It is our stance that we are against anyone insulting any religion, and [not] just Islam,” he said.

Alim also expressed the coalition’s regret that none of Alister’s family members were informed when he was charged in court.

This morning, a team of lawyers led by Batu Lintang state assemblyman See Chee How filed the application for criminal revision of Alister’s jail sentence and fine.

One of the lawyers, Desmond Kho, when contacted, said the application will be heard on March 13 at the High Court here.

“We have asked the court to hear the revision as a matter of urgency,” he said, adding that the court has informed the legal counsel of the date and time of hearing the application.

Alister was sentenced by the Sessions Court last Friday after pleading guilty for uploading on social media offensive materials about Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

He faced five charges under Section 298A(1)(a) of the Penal Code and another five charges under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

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