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Malaysian sultan commutes caning sentence against Muslim woman


Kuala Lumpur: A Muslim woman who was sentenced to be caned for drinking beer has instead been ordered to perform community service after a state sultan decided to commute the sentence, her father said Thursday.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 33, was found guilty of drinking beer at a club two years ago. In September, the Islamic sharia court of appeals in her home state of Pahang upheld her sentence of a 5,000-ringgit ($1,351) fine and six strokes of the cane.

After the state religious authorities deferred the caning several times, Kartika sought an audience with Pahang’s sultan, who has the power as head of the state’s Islamic council to commute her sentence.

Kartika’s father Shukarnor Abdul Muttalib said that his daughter received a letter dated March 26 from the state Islamic and Malay Culture Council Wednesday, informing her that Sultan Ahmad Shah had decided to spare her the caning.

He said the sultan had instead ordered Kartika to perform community service for three weeks, the Star newspaper reported.

Women’s rights groups had earlier slammed the ruling, saying it was a violation of Kartika’s rights and that it would undermine government efforts to portray the country as moderate.

Rights groups were further enraged when the government announced that three other Muslim women were caned in February for illicit sex.

The case had sparked concerns that conservative and hardline Islamists were gaining influence over the justice system.

Muslims make up almost 60 percent of Malaysia’s 28-million population, which also includes large minorities of Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.