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Malaysia: Controversial Caning Sentence Commuted

(Apr. 16, 2010) It was reported on April 1, 2010, that the caning sentence of part-time model and mother of two Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, which had been delayed since August 2008, has now been commuted, despite Kartika's wish to undergo the punishment. The sentence had been six strokes of the rattan cane and a fine of RM5,000 (about US$1,570), imposed for drinking beer at a hotel in Pahang State, in violation of Islamic law. The Sultan of Pahang overturned the original ruling, decreeing instead that Kartika carry out three weeks of community service in a children's home, beginning on April 2. (Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, Nazri: Muslim Lawyers Have No Right to Challenge Sultan, THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER, Apr. 5, 2010, available at
; Malaysia Beer Drink Woman's Caning Commuted,BBC NEWS, Apr. 1, 2010, available at

The Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association (PPMM) apparently disputed the commutation decree, contending that “the rights and powers of the ruler as the head of the religion in the state were contingent on him defending Islamic law and the Syariah [Sharia] courts,” and that the decision “also did not reflect Kartika's wish to be caned.” Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz criticized PPMM's stance as “ignorant,” pointing out that “[t]he Sultan is the highest religious authority and he can commute every punishment based on public interest … .” (Sani, supra.)

When Kartika was first convicted, it appeared that she would become the first woman in Malaysia to be caned. In February 2010, however, three women were reportedly caned at a prison near Kuala Lumpur as a punishment for having extra-marital sex. (BBC NEWS, supra.)