Tue, Aug 25, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Malaysian authorities postpone model's caning

REUTERS , SUNGAI SIPUT, MALAYSIA

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno talks to her father Shukarno from a van belonging to the Islamic Religious Department outside her father’s house in Sungei Siput, about 300km north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Religious authorities in Malaysia yesterday postponed the caning of a Muslim woman convicted of drinking alcohol until after the holy month of Ramadan.

The planned caning of 32-year-old mother of two Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has drawn criticism from rights groups concerned by the rise of Islamic law in the traditionally moderate country, even though Kartika had accepted the punishment.

Earlier yesterday it appeared she might have been freed when a court order that would have transferred her to a prison where she was to have been caned was ruled invalid by an Islamic justice official.

Kartika was released from a van that would have transported her to the prison in Pahang State in eastern Malaysia where she committed the offense that she admits and for which she wanted to be punished in public.

“The punishment has not been canceled, it was postponed because of Ramadan,” Pahang State Executive Councillor for Religion, Missionary Work and Unity Mohamad Sahfri Abdul Aziz said.

Ramadan, a time of fasting and contemplation for Muslims, started on Saturday and lasts a month and Mohamad Sahfri said that the decision was taken after consultations with Malaysia’s attorney-general.

Kartika, who has admitted that she drank beer at a hotel in Pahang in December 2007, said that she still accepted the sentence, but wanted to be treated fairly.

“I am shocked, but I remain steadfast with my decision,” Kartika, wearing a cream-colored, traditional long Malay dress decorated with flowers and a headscarf, told reporters after the state announced it would push ahead with the caning.

“All I want now is to know my true situation and do not treat me like a football,” said Kartika, who had worked as a nurse in Singapore until her trial.

While caning is a common punishment under Malaysia’s civil code, as it is in neighboring Singapore, no woman has been caned and the severity of the punishment has generated criticism that this modern majority-Muslim state was becoming more hard line.

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