Shariah High Court also orders Jawi to withdraw charges against him and return his bail deposit.
PUTRAJAYA: The Shariah High Court today acquitted and discharged social and political activist Kassim Ahmad after ordering the withdrawal of charges that he insulted Islam and defied religious authorities.
Judge Azzeman Omar also directed the bail deposit to be returned to Kassim, 84.
The Federal Territory Religious Department (Jawi), which brought the charges against Kassim, was represented by syarie prosecutors Mohd Hafiz Abd Hamid and Mohd Amirul Adam Ahmad. Kassim was defended by Rosli Dahlan.
Earlier today, Mohd Hafiz applied to postpone the case against Kassim as he said he required direction from the chief syarie prosecutor who had not been appointed yet.
Rosli disagreed with the application, saying the powers of the chief syarie prosecutor could be assumed by any syarie prosecutor.
The defence counsel urged the court to acquit and discharge Kassim, and discontinue the prosecution against him.
“If not freed, Kassim will suffer distress at being dragged to court over a long period for a reason that makes no sense, that they have no chief syarie prosecutor,” Rosli said.
Azzeman, in his ruling, said prosecution could be conducted by anyone qualified and suitable from the public service, and not necessarily by the chief syarie prosecutor only.
The judge also rejected the prosecution’s contention that the charges could only be withdrawn on written approval from the chief syarie prosecutor, saying the requirement applied only to specific cases.
“Thank God,” said Kassim to reporters after he left the courtroom.
Kassim had won an earlier legal battle with Jawi, on Dec 21, 2015, when the Court of Appeal nullified his detention and prosecution by Jawi.
The three-member appellate court panel, headed by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Richard Malanjum, also unanimously rejected leave to appeal applied by the government, Jawi, minister in the prime minister’s department Jamil Khir Baharom, and the then Federal Territory chief syarie prosecutor.
The court ordered the applicants to pay costs of RM20,000 to Kassim.
Sitting on the panel with Justice Malanjum were Federal Court judges Zainun Ali and Balia Yusof Wahi.
After the Court of Appeal’s decision, Rosli told reporters that Kassim was still required to apply to the Shariah High Court to drop the charges against him.
Kassim was first charged in the Putrajaya Shariah High Court on March 27, 2014.
He sought a judicial review in the civil High Court for a declaration that Jawi acted outside its authority under state religious laws and the Federal Constitution by detaining and prosecuting him.
The High Court rejected his application but Kassim won in his appeal to the Court of Appeal.
The appellate court ruled that the arrest of Kassim on March 26, 2014, in his house at Taman Kulim Perdana, Kulim, Kedah, had contravened the Kedah Shariah Enactment.
The court said Kassim, who resided in Kedah, was not bound by the Federal Territory fatwa (edict) since his detention occurred outside the Federal Territory.