LETTER | We, the 15 undersigned civil society organisations and groups, call for the immediate release of Siti Noor Aishah Atam, who was found guilty under Section 130JB of the Penal Code, and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment from the date of arrest on March 22, 2016.
The ruling is not only unjust, but is also seriously flawed.
Amongst others, there is a lack of mens rea (intention) in this offence – a flaw which was supposed to be remedied in an amendment, but which is yet to be done.
Secondly, classifying the possession of books – which are not even banned by Malaysia – as being “items associated with any terrorist group or the commission of a terrorist act” is grossly unjust.
Aishah was first arrested for the possession of 12 books associated with terrorism, and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 was used, making bail unavailable. She remained in detention.
She was then charged and tried by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, which acquitted her at the close of prosecution case without her defence being called on Sept 29, 2016.
The prosecution then applied to the High Court to be able to continue to detain her, pending the filing of an appeal.
However, on Sept 29, 2016, after being set free by the High Court, she was rearrested under the Prevention of Crime Act 29159 for allegedly importing IS flags into the country – a totally different charge from the one initially levied against her, which was being in possession of 12 books.
To date, Aishah has not yet been charged in court over the flags, which raises the question of whether the reason used to continue to detain her was even true.
After the Court of Appeal allowed the prosecution’s appeal on March 27 this year, and sent the case back to the High Court for the continuation of the trial, she continued to be detained under Sosma.
The following month, the High Court then found her guilty and sentenced her to five years in prison beginning from the date of her arrest. It was reported that some of these books were still not banned.
Her case is now being appealed.
Aishah may be guilty of many other offences, but what matters here is if she is guilty of the offence that she is currently being charged for – the possession of the 12 books.
For other offences, she must be charged and tried separately.
It is wrong and most unjust to convict and sentence a person for things that she may or may not have done that are different from the current charges, just because we, the police or the government think that someone is a “bad” person.
The right to a fair trial must be respected.
Hence, we call for:
- The immediate repeal and/or removal of Section 130JB of the Penal Code, which is not only too vague, but is also unjust by reason of not requiring a mens rea to the said offence;
- That pending the repeal or deletion of Section 130JB of the Penal Code, it should not be used again, and certainly not for simply being in possession of books;
- The immediate release of Siti Noor Aishah Atam and all persons currently being detained, imprisoned and/or being tried for the Section 130JB offence;
- That Sosma be repealed, and pending repeal, it will not be used to undermine the standards and requirements in the Evidence Act, Criminal Procedure Code and other relevant laws that have been put in place to ensure a fair trial;
- That the Malaysian judiciary uphold the cause of justice without fear or favour.
Written on behalf of:
Center for Prisoners’ Rights Japan
Christian Development Alternative ( CDA), Bangladesh
Dutch League for Human Rights
Japan Innocence and Death Research Center
KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall – Civil Rights Committee
MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility (MPSR)
North South Initiative
Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL)
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
Women’s Criminal Justice Network
WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)
Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters- HRDP, Myanmar
The views expressed here are those of the authors/contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.