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Friday, April 28, 2017

International body slams Siti Aishah’s guilty sentence

International Commission of Jurists says the law under which Siti Noor Aishah Atam was convicted is 'overly vague'.

PETALING JAYA: The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today slammed the conviction and sentencing of Siti Noor Aishah Atam for possessing books that are said to promote terror group Islamic State.
In a statement today, ICJ called for Aishah’s immediate release from detention, adding that the authorities must act to quash or reverse her conviction.
“The prosecution and conviction of Siti Noor Aishah Atam by Malaysian authorities is a violation of her right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive, and impart information,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s senior international legal adviser for Southeast Asia.
Aishah had argued that the books in question were for research purposes linked to her Master’s degree in Usuluddin (Islamic Studies) at Universiti Malaya (UM).
However, on Wednesday, judge Mohamad Shariff Abu Samah pronounced her guilty under Section 130JB(1)(a) of the Penal Code, which prohibits any “possession, custody or control of any item associated with any terrorist group or the commission of a terrorist act”.
Deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Nazneen Zulkifli had asked the court to take a tough stand to serve as a lesson to the public.
ICJ said while the right to freedom of expression was not absolute, any restriction must be provided by law and be strictly necessary for a limited number of purposes, such as national security.
“The law under which Siti Noor Aishah Atam had been convicted is overly vague, since nobody would know what books or other material would be impermissible.
“The law is also certainly overbroad – having the effect of preventing potentially important academic research,” said Gil.
ICJ added that the 12 books found in Aishah’s possession had not been specifically banned by the government and could easily be bought at any number of bookstores in the country.
“This unjust verdict illustrates the need for urgent legal reform, including the repeal or modification of Section 130JB(1)(a) of the Penal Code.”
Gil added that Malaysian authorities appeared to be abusing the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) by using them to keep Aishah in detention. -FMT

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