Ezra Zaid trial over banned book postponed pending appeal motion at Federal Court

ZI Publications Sdn Bhd director Ezra Zaid is seen at the Federal Court, Putrajaya, September 28, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
ZI Publications Sdn Bhd director Ezra Zaid is seen at the Federal Court, Putrajaya, September 28, 2015. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — The Petaling District Shariah Subordinate Court has postponed the case management of publisher Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid to next year, pending the filing of a motion to appeal with the Federal Court.

Judge Syukran Mohd Yusuf said on October 23, the Selangor State Government Legal Advisor wrote a letter to the Chief Sharie Prosecutor to inquire on the status of Ezra’s trial.

To this, Sharie prosecutor Fairus Jaafar said he has received instructions from his superior to withdraw from the case, and requested it be deferred while awaiting the filing of the motion’s stay of execution.

Defence lawyer Zulkifli Che Yong raised his objections, stating the civil Court of Appeal’s decision on September 25 to terminate the charges against Mohd Ezra effectively rendered those charges as illegal.

He then asked the Subordinate Court to discharge his client, but not amounting to an acquittal, since it has to abide by the Court of Appeal’s decision, and as a result the Syarie prosecution shall apply for any remedy in court.

The judge then said there is no specific duration to file the notice for the motion’s suspension of execution, even though the notice has yet to be filed.

“This court will give it a chance to be considered at a later date,” Syukran said during the proceedings. The case management date has been set to January 16 next year, at 1pm.

On his part Mohd Ezra, the director of ZI Publications Sdn Bhd, has decided to file contempt of court proceedings against all relevant parties, having instructed his lawyers to do so.

“Today’s decision on my case at the Syariah court is disappointing for me personally, but it is deeply troubling for the rule of law in this country,” Mohd Ezra said in a statement.

In his view, when a superior court pronounces judgment and the order is duly served everyone, including the Selangor state government, must abide by that order.

“If court orders are ignored and State agencies or officers refuse to comply with the law, there will be chaos.

“I appeal to the Attorney General Tommy Thomas to communicate this to the State Legal Advisor of this basic tenet of the law, who can then convey this to the relevant authorities and officers.

“It pays to keep in mind that the State Legal Advisor is an officer of the AG’s Chamber, and therefore his actions or inactions is a reflection of the Attorney General,” Mohd Ezra said.

The Court of Appeal instructed for the decision to prosecute Mohd Ezra to be dropped, in relation to a Bahasa Malaysia translation of Canadian progressive Muslim author Irshad Manji’s book Allah, Liberty and Love.

As part of the appeal, he was granted RM10,000 in costs and damage to his mental health, torture and agony, meant to be paid by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (JAIS) its director-general, enforcement chief, Selangor Syariah prosecution chief, and the Selangor state government.

ZI Publications’ office had been raided by JAIS officers on May 29, 2012, where 180 copies of the translated book was seized and Ezra detained. Later on that same day, the Home Ministry issued a prohibition order on both the English and BM translation of Manji’s book’s in Malaysia, on grounds that the book is deemed offensive to Islam and Muslims.

An application for judicial review challenging JAIS’ raid was subsequently filed by Mohd Ezra and ZI Publication, in which they also sought an order to compel the department to return the 180 copies seized. However, the review was dismissed on March 7 last year by the High Court.

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