After 3 years, Jawi drops charge against Borders manager

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(May 13): The Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi) has agreed to withdraw a charge against Borders bookstore manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz for selling Irshad Manji's book "Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta".

This comes just before the one-week deadline expires after her lawyers sent a notice to Jawi threatening to initiate contempt proceedings if it did not drop the prosecution.

Legal firm Lee Hishamuddin Allen & Gledhill, who is appearing for Nik Raina, sent a notice dated May 5 to Jawi director Paimuzi Yahya and its chief shariah prosecutor Mohammad Adib Husain.

It stated both were given a week to stop criminal proceedings against Nik Raina and also withdraw their appeal pending before the Federal Territory Shariah Court of Appeal.

Lawyer Rosli Dahlan when contacted today confirmed that Jawi had sent a letter stating that it would drop the charge against Nik Raina.

"The letter is dated May 11 and is signed by Adib," he told The Malaysian Insider.

Her lawyers had threatened to cite the two Jawi officials for contempt for disrespecting a civil court ruling.

"Take note that that we will proceed to initiate committal proceedings if you fail to stop her case (in the religious court)," the lawyers said the letter.

The letter stated that it was hoped Jawi would not challenge the integrity of the civil court, which could result in conflict of civil and shariah laws.

A copy of the letter was sent to the Attorney-General's Chamber and the Kuala Lumpur Shariah High Court registrar.

Documents sighted by The Malaysian Insider revealed that Paimuzi acknowledged receipt of the notice on Wednesday.

On February 26 this year, Shariah High Court judge Mohd Aman Mat Zain granted Nik Raina a discharge not amounting to an acquittal when he ruled the court took into consideration a pending appeal by the shariah prosecutor to the Federal Court that has yet to be disposed of.

However, the chief prosecutor, on March 9, sent a notice to Nik Raina that he was challenging Mohd Aman's ruling in the Shariah Court of Appeal.

On December 30 last year, the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, in upholding a High Court decision, ruled that Jawi was wrong in raiding and seizing copies of the controversial book from a Borders bookstore.

A three-man bench, led by Datuk Mah Weng Kwai, said the book was seized before a fatwa banning it was issued and as such Jawi's actions were deemed illegal and unconstitutional.

The bench also held that Jawi's actions against Nik Raina were unconstitutional and illegal and said her arrest and prosecution must be quashed.

"Jawi had acted beyond their powers against Nik Raina (third respondent) and the bookstore," Mah said.

This case has also shone the spotlight on the country’s parallel systems of civil law and shariah law, with the majority Malay-Muslim population being bound by the latter.

The three respondents in the case were Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd, Borders assistant general manager of operations and merchandising Stephen Fung and Nik Raina.

The appeal was filed by Jawi, the Home Minister and the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic religious affairs, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom.

The parties were appealing against the High Court’s decision to allow Berjaya Books’ judicial review to quash Jawi’s actions in seizing Irshad Manji’s book from the bookstore.

On May 23, 2012, Jawi conducted a raid at the bookstore and subsequently Nik Raina was accused by the religious authority of breaching the hukum sharak by distributing or selling the book "Allah, Liberty and Love".

On June 18, 2012, Borders filed for leave to commence a judicial review on the legality of the raid, the process and prosecution of Nik Raina at a time when there was no ban of the publication.

The High Court subsequently granted leave for Borders to commence judicial review proceedings against Jawi for raiding, searching, seizing of publications and subjecting to examination and investigation Borders's Muslim and non-Muslim employees.

On June 19, 2012, Nik Raina was charged under Section 13 (1) of the Federal Territory Shariah Offences Act 1997 for selling a publication deemed against the religion.

This was despite repeated letters by her lawyers urging Jawi to drop the charge against her. – The Malaysian Insider