Malaysian woman spared caning

Eileen Ng
Friday 02 April 2010 00:00 BST

A woman's caning sentence for drinking beer has been commuted unexpectedly, ending a high-profile case which raised questions about Islamic laws intruding into personal matters in Malaysia.

"I have very mixed feelings. I was shocked because this was unexpected," Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, said after receiving the reprieve yesterday.

She received a letter on Wednesday from the Pahang state Islamic department informing her that the state's sultan had decided to spare her the caning. She has been ordered to do three weeks of community service instead. Ms Kartika, 33, said she will start work at a children's home.

The order is likely to cool a debate over whether Islamic laws are intruding into people's private lives in the Muslim-majority country, which has long been seen as a model of a progressive Islamic society. Many had condemned the punishment, saying it shows conservative Islamists are gaining influence over the justice system.

Ms Kartika was sentenced to six strokes of the cane last July after being caught by morality police at a beach restaurant while drinking beer, which is forbidden by Islamic laws.

She pleaded guilty and did not appeal her sentence, but the punishment was halted at the last minute following an uproar in the media and among rights activists.

The former model said she felt "tortured" while waiting to be caned and now feels the punishment should have been carried out.

"But I will follow the sultan's orders," she said, adding that she has already expressed regret for drinking.

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