Court cuts jail time for Sarawakian convicted of insulting Islam, retains RM50,000 fine

The judge said the accused had committed a serious crime which could undermine racial harmony in Sarawak, adding that all religions must be respected. — Reuters pic
The judge said the accused had committed a serious crime which could undermine racial harmony in Sarawak, adding that all religions must be respected. — Reuters pic

KUCHING, Sept 13 — Alister Cogia, 22, will now spend six years of his life in prison instead of 10 after he was found guilty of insulting Islam and the religion’s prophet on Facebook.

High Court judge Azhahari Kamal Ramli today reduced an earlier prison sentence, but maintained the RM50,000 fine imposed by the Sessions Court after taking into account the timing and frequencies of the offence.

He said the accused had committed a serious crime which could undermine racial harmony in Sarawak, adding that all religions must be respected.

The judge also noted that Alister was sane when he pled guilty to all the charges and when he posted the offensive remarks on his Facebook page.

On March 8 this year, Alister was sentenced to 10 years jail and fined RM50,000 after he pleaded guilty to the charges of uploading on social media offensive materials about Islam and the prophet.

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

All the offences were committed in February and he was arrested on March 3, this year.

Francis Teron, one of the defence counsel, said it is up to Alister to decide whether he wanted to appeal to the decision against the reduced jail term.

He said the accused has 14 days to file an appeal.

“We are ready to file the appeal if he instructs us,” said Teron, a member of a legal team which represented Alister on a pro bono basis.

He said the legal team had argued that the accused had mental problem when he uploaded the offensive materials and did not know the consequences of pleading guilty to the charges.

He added Alister was not represented by a lawyer when he was charged, and subsequently, pleaded guilty.

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