Bilqis appeal: There are real crimes for govt to go after, say activists

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https://hakam.org.my/wp/2018/01/19/bilqis-appeal-there-are-real-crimes-for-govt-to-go-after-say-activists/
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Source: Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: A human rights NGO has questioned the government’s decision to appeal the acquittal of a woman who dropped balloons at an event attended by the prime minister and his wife in 2015.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) executive director Eric Paulsen also questioned the need to secure a conviction for a minor incident, adding that it was a “waste of resources”.

“Surely there are real crimes for the public prosecutor to go after?

“He must not forget that he acts as a guardian for public interest. What public interest is being served by continuously appealing such a petty matter?”

Paulsen was commenting on the news report that dance producer Bilqis Hijjas was served with a copy of the public prosecutor’s notice of appeal to the High Court.

A copy of the notice revealed it was received by the Registrar of the Kuala Lumpur subordinates court on Dec 6 on grounds that the government was dissatisfied with the acquittal at the close of the defence case.

The offence carries a fine of not more than RM100 upon conviction.

On Nov 27, the 38-year-old daughter of prominent architect Hijjas Kasturi, was freed of committing the offence at a shopping mall two years ago.

Paulsen also questioned why Bilqis was charged in the first place as she was “merely exercising her freedom of speech”.

Similarly, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy said that appealing against the decision was a form of harassment as well, and a waste of public funds and resources.

He said that Putrajaya was clearly overreacting in this case.

“They are trying to curb freedom of expression, which is already limited in Malaysia.”

Bilqis was accused of dropping the balloons from the fifth floor of the Pavilion shopping mall in Bukit Bintang on Aug 31 while Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, were attending the Diverse­City 2015 Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival on the ground floor.

The balloons, carrying the words “democracy”, “free media” and “justice” and the incident happened the day after the Bersih 4 rally.

Bilqis was charged under the Minor Offences Act 1955 for behaving in an insulting manner with the purpose of stirring anger which would likely cause a disturbance.

In clearing her of the charge, magistrate Muhammad Faizal Ismail said the defence had created doubts over the prosecution’s case.

He said Bilqis’ claim that she only dropped the balloons to attract Najib’s attention to uphold constitutional principles was never challenged by the prosecution.

“Evidence by prosecution witnesses that they (guests who attended the event) would be angry with her (Bilqis) and that there would be disruption were mere assumptions,” he said.

Faizal said there was also no resistance from her when she was apprehended by security officials and the event proceeded smoothly.