KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — The Sessions Court here today allowed an application by the founder of Rumah Bonda welfare home, Siti Bainun Ahd Razali, for the temporary release of her impounded passport to enable her to attend a volunteer programme in the Philippines.

Judge Izralizam Sanusi granted the temporary release from today until February 11 after hearing submissions from lawyer Farhan Maaruf who is representing Siti Bainun and deputy public prosecutor Zilfinaz Abbas.

“The first thing the court assesses is whether there is a basis for the accused to run away. I am of the opinion that there is no risk for the applicant (Siti Bainun) to flee and based on the record, the applicant never fails to appear in court and has always given her cooperation.

“After considering the arguments of the defence and the prosecution, the court allowed the temporary release of the passport starting today and the applicant must return it to the court before or on February 11 and the previous bail of RM17,000 is increased by RM3,000 to RM20,000,” he said.

Earlier, Farhan informed the court that on January 3, the applicant received an invitation letter from the Cebu Madinah Mosque in the Philippines to attend a community development programme from February 3 to 9.

“The applicant has participated in the programme since 2014 and she usually went there on the first week of Ramadan every year before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country. Since the trial of her case will begin in early Ramadan, the applicant would like to attend the programme earlier than usual.

“She has to be there to manage donation money from individuals in Malaysia. We believe that the money can be handed over through money transfer but the applicant needs to be there to ensure the recipient receives the money,” said Farhan.

When questioned by Judge Izralizam on why the application was filed yesterday afternoon even though the applicant received the invitation letter on January 3, Farhan said there were some mistakes in the content of the letter and his client received the updated letter on Wednesday.

Farhan added that there was no reason for his client to run away because she has her family, business and a job in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Zilfinaz objected to the application as it was filed at the last minute even though Siti Bainun received the invitation early which showed that the applicant took the opportunity to celebrate the Chinese New Year before the programme.

“The letter did not state the actual date and itinerary of the programme. Hence, we are worried the applicant will take advantage,” she said.

Zilfinaz added that the date for the trial of the case is getting closer and looking at the increasing Covid-19 cases in the Philippines, it may put Siti Bainun at risk and affect the trial if she contracted the virus.

Siti Bainun, 30, pleaded not guilty to two counts of neglecting and abusing a 13-year-old down-syndrome girl in a manner likely to cause her physical or emotional injury at a condominium unit in Wangsa Maju here between February and June last year.

The charge, framed under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act 2001, provides a maximum fine of RM50,000, or imprisonment for up to 20 years, or both, if found guilty.

The court has set 15 days from March 30 for the hearing, with the prosecution expected to call 34 witnesses. — Bernama