Malaysia religious court orders caning for woman

KUALA LUMPUR Mon Sep 28, 2009 10:38am EDT

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno poses during her family's Eid al-Fitr open house in Sungei Siput, 350 km (217 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, September 24, 2009.REUTERS/Zainal Abd Halim

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno poses during her family's Eid al-Fitr open house in Sungei Siput, 350 km (217 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, September 24, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Zainal Abd Halim

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian religious court appeals panel on Monday upheld a caning sentence for a woman who drank beer, despite criticism from groups worried about the rise of conservative Islam in the multi-racial Southeast Asian nation.

State news agency Bernama reported that the appeals panel in the state of Pahang, the home state of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on the eastern coast of peninsular Malaysia, had ruled the sentence would be carried out.

No date was set for carrying out the sentence, consisting of six strokes of the cane, Bernama said.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year-old mother of two, will become the first woman to be caned under rarely-used religious criminal and family laws that apply only to Muslims.

She was caught by Islamic enforcement officers drinking beer at a resort in July 2008, and was sentenced to caning and a fine in July of last year.

Kartika's case drew widespread media attention after she refused to appeal her sentence, saying she wanted to serve as an example to other Muslims.

The chief Islamic court judge in the state of Pahang ordered a review of the sentence and Najib himself urged Kartika to appeal.

"She is ready to face her punishment and all she hopes for now is that it be done professionally and according to procedures set out in Islam," Kartika's father Shukarnor Abdul Muttalib told Reuters.

Kartika's case has drawn criticism from groups concerned about the rise of Shariah (Islamic) laws amid increasing Islamisation of the country's majority Malay-Muslims, who make up 55 percent of the Southeast Asian country's 27 million population.

(Reporting by Razak Ahmad; Editing by David Chance and Bill Tarrant)

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