Bid for Review of “Mentally Unstable” Man’s 10-Year Sentence over FB Post

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Another man jailed 7 months also for insulting Islam and Prophet.

A coalition of seven civil societies today expressed support to revise the case of a potentially mentally ill man who was jailed 10 years and fined RM50,000 for insulting Islam on Facebook.

Spokesman Alim Mideh said Alister Cogia, 22, was not represented by a legal counsel when he pleaded guilty to five charges of causing disunity on grounds of religion and another five charges of making offensive comments online.

“We do not know if he really understood the charges and the consequences of pleading guilty,” Alim told reporters.

 

“Every accused has the right to be heard and be accorded the legal and advice since the charges against him carried severe penalties,” he said.

He asked why Alister was not accorded legal assistance before his guilty plea and sentencing was made before the court.

He said the prosecution should have told the court of the mental conditions of the accused at the material time.

“In the course of conducting investigations, the police investigating officer should have known that Alister is not mentally stable.

“Since small, he used to be frequently ill. He gradually became introvert and preferred to keep to himself in his room.

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“Occasionally, he would get very irritated and angry and would curse and swear at people passing his house in Bau,” Alim said.

He said Alister had also defamed Christianity and Adat Asal on Facebook.

“In Bidayuh language, he is considered as ‘bako’, but is yet to be called mad. He is just mentally unstable,” he said.

Alim said the coalition was of the view that the correct procedure would be to subject him to observation to determine his mental status and to see if he was capable of understanding what he has done or to be fully responsible for his actions.

“It is our stance that we are against anyone insulting any religion, and [not] just Islam,” he said.

Alim also expressed the coalition’s regret that none of Alister’s family members was informed when he was charged in court.

Meanwhile, Alister’s family had sought the help of a team of PKR lawyers, claiming the accused was suffering from behavioural difficulties and required psychiatric advice and therapy.

Alister’s mother, Alen Rigod, also claimed she and members of his family were denied permission to meet him while he was under remand.

“He was also not told that he would appear in court last Friday, which caused him to be unrepresented.

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“There is doubt whether Alister understood the gravity of the charges and the significance of his guilty plea,” Batu Lintang state assemblyman See Chee How was quoted as saying.

According to Rigod, Alister was picked up by police two weeks ago but was released without being charged.

She said the police returned on March 3.

“We were unsure what he did in his room or online. But we found out later that he has multiple Facebook accounts where he had posted some weird comments,” Rigod was reported as saying.

This morning, the team of PKR lawyers led by See through Francis Teron Kadap & Co filed the application for criminal revision of Alister’s jail term.

The lawyers will apply for the case to be recalled so that the court could seek the opinion of a psychiatrist.

One of the lawyers, Desmond Kho, said the application will be heard on March 13 at the Kuching High Court.

“We have asked the court to hear the revision as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Terengganu mufti Ismail Yahya said the 10-year sentence imposed on a first-time offender who insulted Prophet Muhammad is excessive.

Zikri Kamarulazman/Malaysiakini

“Islam is not upheld through punishment but through wise discourse. It is not a religion which was expanded through emotion but through the understanding of its ideas,” he told The Star.

He said Muslims should be able to portray the wisdom of Islam without punishing the ignorant and ensure that they do not portray Islam wrongly to the non-Muslims.

The Star also quoted Malaysian Bar vice-president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor echoing the same sentiment as Ismail in saying the 10-year jail term was excessive since it did not involve violence or physical injury.

“Sentencing must be judicially assessed as the purpose of sentencing is for the offender to reform and not used to retaliate,” he said.

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Fareed said since the accused had pleaded guilty and was a first-time offender, the sentence should have not been that harsh.

“In short, justice must be tempered with mercy,” he said.

The same report also quoted Penang mufti Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor as saying that punishment should be tempered with compassion to educate the guilty.

He said a few factors must be taken into consideration when sentencing the accused.

“In Islam, we do take into consideration a few factors before we hand down a sentence on a person accused of insult. I am not a man of the law but if there is evidence that the insult did occur, we must see if the accused is stable mentally.

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“If he is not mentally stable, then his mental health should be taken into consideration although crime is still a crime. If there is an avenue to lighten the sentence, then the reduction should be allowed.”

He said if the accused was a first-time offender, the maximum sentence should not be imposed.

Meanwhile, the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court has sentenced another man to seven months’ jail and fined him RM10,000 for insulting Prophet Muhammad and Islam on social media.

Judge Hasbullah Adam handed down the sentence to Mohamad Yazid Kong Abdullah, who pleaded guilty last Friday to the charge under Section 233 (1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA).

“The offence you committed is serious because you are challenging Islam, the religion of the Federal Constitution,” he said.

If Yazid could not settle the fine, he added, he would have to serve an additional two months in jail.

Yazid was accused of making three Facebook posts on Feb 24 that insulted Islam and the Prophet. The posts were read by one Mohd Saifuddin Mustaffa on March 1. Saifuddin subsequently lodged a report at the Wangsa Maju police station.

Yazid was arrested at his home on March 4. The police also seized his mobile phone and WiFi modems.

Kamal Ariffin/TMI

Yazid’s lawyer Syafiq Salleh pleaded for leniency, saying his client was a first-time offender who had a wife and a young child to support.

“He converted to Islam when he married, but he did not have any guidance from the relevant parties on the religion,” he said.

He added that Yazid would apologise to the public for his actions.

However, deputy public prosecutor Muhamad Asyraf Md Kamal urged the court to impose a deterrent sentence on grounds that insulting a religion is a serious offence.

“His Facebook statuses have caused anger towards the Muslim community here,” he said, adding that the prosecution was seeking an eight-month jail sentence and RM40,000 fine on Yazid.


Related report: Mar 5, Four More People Probed over Anti-Islam Posting on Social Media