PUTRAJAYA, Sept 25 — The Court of Appeal nullified today the Shariah charges filed against independent publisher Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid, effectively ending his trial in the Islamic court system.
When granting the appeal by the son of former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, the appellate court also made an order granting him costs of RM10,000, without an allocator, for the mental distress, agony, and torture suffered during under the watch of the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais).
“Our unanimous decision is that the appeal is allowed in part, in that to set aside the High Court order dated March 7, 2018,” said Datuk Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid in reading the judgement.
“Consequently, we remit back to the High Court to assess damages suffered by the second applicant,” added Umi in reference to Ezra.
Others judges on the bench were Datuk Hasnah Mohammed Hashim and Datuk Suraya Othman.
In March last year, the High Court dismissed Ezra’s challenge against the constitutionality of his charges in the Shariah courts.
Ezra was represented by lawyers Fahri Azzat, Nizam Bashir, and Shanmuga Kanesalingam, while Fakhrul Azman Abu Hassan appeared on behalf of Jais.
His appeal comprised 10 points, with requests including the return of the 180 seized books, the delay of his Shariah court trial and for the court to nullify the related raid by religious enforcers and for it to be deemed unlawful.
Among the points argued by his lawyers was the fact that Ezra was charged under the Islamic criminal code for a wrongdoing that should have been pinned on his company, ZI Publications Sdn Bhd.
In virtue of that, his lawyers told the court how a company cannot be charged for committing religious offences as the entity cannot formally profess a faith, which effectively nullifies the charges.
The judges, however, did not recommend if action should be taken against ZI Publications, or if Jais should return the seized books.
When speaking to the press, Ezra said it was a big day for him following the seven-and-a-half-year battle since the raid and seizures.
“Obviously, I am very, very happy about it, and I am hoping that this will put an end to this entire chapter where my trial is currently ongoing in the Shariah courts.
“I think in these kinds of moments, I’m very relieved as a Malaysian that the learned judges of this court have made the decision that they have, and it’s something that my lawyers and I and my family have been working hard towards for the past seven-and-a-half years,” he added.
Concerning ZI Publications, Ezra admitted the company’s business had been adversely affected following the 2012 incident, but said that it was still in operation.
“It is operating still, but in a much more limited way, and I think it will probably continue that way until we get full closure from this entire battle,” he explained.