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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 ― Lawyer Siti Kasim has sued the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jaw) and 14 of its officers for compensation due to their alleged wrongful arrest and illegal detention of her during its 2016 raid of a private fundraising dinner involving transgenders and featuring a beauty pageant theme.
Siti's lawsuit was due to Jawi's actions of allegedly wrongfully arresting and unlawfully confining her on April 3, 2016 following the raid, which she said amounted to false imprisonment, misfeasance of public office, and denial of her constitutional rights to personal liberty and to be told why she was detained.
In the statement of claim for the lawsuit, Siti traced the chronology of how the raid had unfolded at the April 3, 2016 private fundraising event which carried the theme of “Miss World” and which she had attended as a lawyer.
During the raid, Siti said 14 Jawi officers had at around 10.30pm blocked the hotel ballroom's exits and barred all those present from leaving the room where the event was held.
Siti said she had identified herself as a lawyer to the two Jawi officers leading the raid and asked if the event was against the law, adding that the duo had then merely replied that the event was against a fatwa or religious edict without specifying the fatwa.
The two Jawi officers leading the raid were named by Siti as Akmal Nadzim Abdullah and Siti Nor Jihan Saleh @ Md Ghazali.
Siti said Siti Nor Jihan did not answer when asked if the Jawi officers had a warrant to enter the premises where the private event was held, adding that both Akmal Nadzim and Siti Nor Jihan did not specify the suspected offence while others proceeded to seize items in the ballroom.
Siti said Jawi officers then arrested event organiser Ira Sophia who was her client despite Siti having told them that no offence has been committed, having also noted that Akmal Nadzim highlighted the event's theme “Miss World” when asked if the organiser had breached the law.
Siti said Siti Nor Jihan had held her hand and brought her out to the stairs outside the ballroom, claiming that Siti Nor Jihan had allegedly shouted “Gari” or handcuffs several times in a threatening manner when Siti asked for her hand to be released as the officer had allegedly pushed her.
Siti said Akmal Nadzim confirmed that she was arrested due to the alleged offence under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing a public officer.
After being brought together with Ira Sophia by Jawi to a police station, Siti said she had contacted her lawyer, who had asked Akmal Nadzim several times if she was arrested. She said Akmal Nadzim had initially refused to reply before saying she was not arrested, and she noted that she was released at around 2.30am on April 4.
As a result of Jawi officers' actions in the raid, Siti said she suffered a loss of her freedom for about four hours, as well as nervous shock, insult and mental anguish.
Siti said she was merely carrying out her duties as a lawyer during the raid, and had not obstructed Jawi officers from carrying out their duties or committed any wrongdoing, further asserting that Jawi has no jurisdiction or investigation powers over offences under the Penal Code.
Siti said she was unlawfully deprived of her personal liberty for four hours (10.30pm on April 3 to 2.30am on April 4), noting that she was not told of the offences that she and her client were arrested for, while also highlighting Jawi's powers only extend to Shariah offences.
She also claimed that Jawi officers as public officers had abused their office, alleging that the raid was carried out in a high-handed and oppressive manner.
Siti's lawyer Surendra Ananth confirmed that the lawsuit was filed this April 1, saying that this was necessary as there is a three-year limitation period that requires lawsuits against public officers to be filed within that period.
In the lawsuit filed by the law firm Saha & Associates, Siti named 19 respondents, including the 14 Jawi officers and Jawi’s chief federal territories religious enforcer, the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (Maiwp), Jawi and Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof in his capacity as minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs.
Other than Akmal Nadzim and Siti Nor Jihan, the other Jawi officers named are Farah Wahida Zulkiflee, Ruzaimie Mamat, Mohd Hasmizi Mohd Hassan, Mohd Shahrizan Yaacob, Mohd Khairuddin Mohd Noor, Rosyaimi Affendi Ruslan, Ahmad Naziz Lahori, Mohammad Izehar Md Amin, Mohd Faizal Mustapha, Mohd Fikri Abu Mansor, Mohd Faizal Roslan and Mohamad Bukhori Ahmad.
Surendra confirmed that Siti had on June 14 filed for the hearing of this civil lawsuit against Jawi to be stayed or deferred until the end of a related criminal court case.
Noting the ongoing criminal proceedings, Surendra explained why the stay application was filed: “The issues and facts raised in the civil suit is similar to that in the criminal case. It would be better to await the outcome of the criminal case first to avoid potential conflicting findings of facts.
“It is of course Siti's position that even if the criminal case is determined against her, she can still succeed in the civil suit as we have a second argument that the Jawi officers had no jurisdiction to arrest her for a federal offence.”
The hearing of the stay application was on September 3, and High Court judicial commissioner Datuk Seri Latifah Mohd Tahar will deliver her decision on October 9 on whether to wait for the criminal case to be completed before hearing Siti's lawsuit against Jawi.
The criminal case is over Siti's alleged obstruction of public officers during the Jawi raid, with Surendra confirming that it is currently at the prosecution stage with one witness remaining.