Lawyer Siti Kasim acquitted of obstructing 2016 Jawi transgender raid

Human rights activist Siti Kasim is seen with her lawyer Suzana Norlihan Alias at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex August 21, 2020. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif
Human rights activist Siti Kasim is seen with her lawyer Suzana Norlihan Alias at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex August 21, 2020. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — Lawyer and activist Siti Zabedah Kasim was acquitted today of obstructing the duties of a public servant during a Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) raid on a transgender event in 2016.

Kuala Lumpur magistrate Tawfiq Affandy Chin this morning ruled that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against her.

He also found that Jawi did not follow the correct procedure during the 2016 raid and Siti was just acting in her capacity as a lawyer.

“Based on the submission, the court releases the OKT (accused) of the charge,” he said.

Siti, who was visibly overjoyed at the decision, said she thanked God and her defence team led by Suzana Norlihan.

“This victory shows that from the start, I was not supposed to be charged in court.

“Witnesses have said that the police received instructions from above to charge me in court.

“I was just doing my job as a lawyer during the dinner event at that time,” she told reporters in front of the courtroom at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex after the decision.

Meanwhile, Suzana said the magistrate agreed with the defence’s argument that the manner by which Jawi had conducted the raid was wrong.

She also revealed that no one who was arrested in the raid, including Siti, was charged later in the Shariah Court.

“Jawi described the event as a beauty pageant to the media, but the police report called it a dinner ceremony with a beauty pageant theme. There was never any contest.

“Any member of the public should be wary if they are arrested by Jawi. They must check the police report,” she said.

During the proceedings, Jawi enforcement division assistant director Akmal Nadzim Abdullah said he led a team tasked with carrying out the raid at the ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel here on April 3, 2016, following a tip-off.

Akmal said he also explained that the raid was being conducted under Section 9 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories Act) 1997 for breaching a fatwa (edict) which states that Muslims are not allowed to take part in beauty pageants.

Siti was taken along with the event organiser to a police station, but was released that same night after Jawi denied arresting her.

However, on June 13, 2017, more than a year after the event, Siti was notified of charges under Section 186 of the Penal Code, which carry a penalty of two years’ imprisonment and/or a RM10,000 fine for obstructing a public official.

In September 2019, Siti sued Jawi and 14 of its officers for compensation over her alleged wrongful arrest and illegal detention during the 2016 raid.

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