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Page last updated at 12:50 GMT, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 13:50 UK

Malaysia to review caning woman

Singaporean Muslim model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor looking on at the Sharia High Court in Kuantan, Pahang State, 20 July
Ms Kartika requested that her caning take place in public

A Malaysian court has reportedly ordered a review of the caning sentence given to a woman caught drinking beer.

The main judge at Pahang's Islamic court put the caning on hold pending the review, saying the sentence was "too extreme", the Star newspaper said.

If the sentence is enforced, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor will be the first woman to be caned in the country.

Analysts say the government fears that the punishment could damage Malaysia's reputation abroad.

Malaysia has a two-track legal system; majority Malays are subject to Islamic laws, while the large Chinese and Indian minorities are not.

'Cruel image'

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor, a 32-year-old mother of two, was arrested for drinking beer in a beachfront hotel in December 2007.

She was initially told she would receive six strokes of a rattan cane this week.

This was subsequently delayed until after Ramadan, and now it looks set to be postponed indefinitely.

According to an article in the Malaysia Star newspaper, and similar comments by women's minister Shahrizat Jalil, the chief judge of Pahang state appeals court has ordered the sentence to be deferred pending the review.

Analysts say the government is eager to ensure that the caning sentence is not carried out.

Shahrizat Jalil called the verdict excessive, and said it projected a "cruel image" of Malaysia.

"The overriding view was that the sentence meted out was too harsh and is not commensurate with the offence," she told reporters.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has urged Kartika to appeal.

But instead of doing this, Kartika has asked that her punishment is carried out in public, triggering a debate over the use of Islamic laws in the moderate Muslim country.



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Malaysia delays caning beer woman
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