09 September, 2009

12 charged over cow-head protest

Six men were charged with sedition at the Sessions Court on Wednesday for their involvement in a protest in which they dragged a cow’s head to the front of the state secretariat building last month, then proceeded to stamp and spit on it.

The six were also charged with taking part in an illegal assembly, along with six other men, at the Magistrates Court.

The 12 men were among some 50 people, led by residents of Section 23 here, who on Aug 28 marched about 300m from the state mosque to the gates of the state secretariat building to protest against the relocation of the Sri Mahamariamman temple from Section 19 to their neighbourhood.

The six charged with sedition under Section 4 (1) of the Sedition Act 1948, alternatively under Section 298 of the Penal Code, pleaded not guilty and bail was set at RM4,000 each with one surety.

Ibrahim Sabri, 42, and Ahmad Mahayuddin Abd Manaf were charged with allegedly stepping on the cow’s head with the tendency to incite, where the act could create feelings of unsatisfactory and animosity towards Hindus.

The offence carries a punishment of a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.

Eyzva Ezhar Ramly, 31, was charged with allegedly carrying the cow’s head while Mohd Azmir Mohd Zain, 35, Ahmad Suhairy Zakaria, 30, and Mohd Hilmi Ni, 40, were charged with carrying and stepping on it.

The six were also alternatively charged with deliberate intend to wound religious feelings of any person, and if convicted, can be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, a fine, or both.

The accused were represented by lead counsel Datuk Salehuddin Saldin and a team of six lawyers. Judge Hasbi Hassan presided.

DPP Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar requested bail of RM15,000 for each but Salehuddin shot down the request, saying that the six men voluntarily turned up at court despite only being informed the night before.

“If we look at the facts of the case, it was not their intention to insult any religion that is practised by other races.

“For Malays, a cow is synonymous with stupidity and not synonymous with religious matters. It is not as a serious offence as portrayed,” claimed Salehuddin, adding that bail should be set at RM500 each.

Mohd Dusuki argued that a RM500 bail was not suitable for the charges as it has received wide coverage in the media and it involved public interest.

“The fact that there is wide coverage should not be a consideration in setting the amount of bail. So what if the coverage is wide? If the reporters blow the case out of proportion, can the accused be punished for this?” Salehuddin told a packed courtroom.

These six men were later charged at the Magistrates Court together with Jainudin @ Zainudin Md Yusuff, 67, Mohd Jurit Ramli, 39, Mohammad Nordin Zakaria, 46, Jamil Mohamad Isa, 40, Rahimuddin Md Harun, 39 and Azahari Shaari, 39, with illegal assembly under Section 27 (5) of the Police Act 1967.

If found guilty, they are liable to a fine of not less than RM2,000 and not more than RM10,000, and imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.

All 12 men claimed trial in front of another packed courtroom.

Mohd Dusuki asked for bail of RM10,000 for each and Salehuddin requested a lower amount of RM500.

“In previous cases of illegal assembly, the bail was set at RM500. Lately, there have been many illegal assemblies and they involved people who want to express their intentions.

“There are six of them who are also facing other charges in another court for the same transaction. Because of this, bail should be set lower,” Salehuddin said.

Magistrate Norkamilah Aziz set bail at RM300 with one surety for those facing sedition charges and at RM500 for the others.

Mention for both cases has been set for Oct 21.

After proceedings, newsmen asked Mohd Dusuki about the fate of the other protesters and he replied that it was up to the police to decide if they would charge the others.

The group of accused earlier arrived at court at 8.40am accompanied by local and outstation supporters. The 12 men shouted to the media present that they were not guilty and they were united in their stand.

- The Star

Meanwhile, Malay non-governmental organisation Perkasa wants to provide legal counsel to the 12 “cow head protestors” who were charged with sedition and illegal assembly at the Shah Alam Sessions and Magistrates courts on Wednesday.

Its president Datuk Ibrahim Ali said several lawyer members of the movement were willing to take up the case as a “jihad,” or any war undertaken in the name of Islam against unbelievers or backsliders.

“We will also go on a donation drive to help them financially to pay for unforeseen expenses that they might incur during the trial proper.

“We are not doing this as a publicity stunt or political mileage but for the sake of the Ummah (the community of believers) and to defend Allah’s religion,” he said in a press statement issued here on Wednesday.

Ibrahim, who is also the independent Member of Parliament for Pasir Mas, criticised those in power, accusing them of being cowards for not protecting the religion.

However, many Muslim and political leaders have condemned the incident (see below), saying such hatred and disrespect had no place in the religion.

On Aug 28, some 50 people, led by residents of Section 23 in Shah Alam, marched about 300m from the state mosque to the gates of the Selangor state secretariat building to protest against the relocation of the Sri Mahamariamman temple from Section 19 to Section 21.

They dragged along a decapitated cow’s head then proceeded to stamp and spit on it.

They also warned of further action if the temple was built in their area, with one protest leader promising bloodshed.

- The Star



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