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August 28, 2009

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Malaysian woman spared cane

AFTER a series of flip-flops, authorities in Malaysia decided this week that a 32-year-old Muslim woman caught drinking beer in violation of Islamic law would not be caned after all.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was charged with violating a law prohibiting Muslims from drinking alcohol.

Kartika's controversy started unnoticed in December 2007 when Islamic morality police - functionaries of the government's Islamic Religious Department - caught her drinking beer at a beach resort in Pahang state. She pleaded guilty to violating the Islamic law banning Muslims from drinking alcohol and was sentenced by a Shariah High Court in July to six strokes of the cane and a fine of 5,000 ringgit (US$1,400).

She paid the fine and decided not to appeal her sentence. Had she appealed, lawyers say, the caning would have been struck down and the case would have died a natural death.

Kartika's case snowballed into a media circus after it was reported she would be kept in jail for a week for the sentence to be carried out. On Monday, Kartika was taken away by Islamic officials in a van headed for the prison.

But officials turned back 30 minutes later and Kartika was brought home.


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