PUTRAJAYA, February 18 – Controversial bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee have been cleared on a charge of causing religious enmity among the people of various faiths by uploading pictures which ridiculed the Muslims during Ramadan on their Facebook.
The followed a decision by a five-member panel of the Federal Court today in unanimously dismissing the prosecution’s appeal on grounds that the (Federal) court had no jurisdiction to hear the case. The prosecution was appealing against a Court of Appeal’s verdict to throw out the charge against Tan and his former girlfriend.
Justice Tan Sri Abdull Hamid Embong, who chaired the panel, allowed a preliminary objection raised by the duo’s counsel, Chong Joo Tian who argued that the Federal Court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the prosecution’s appeal.
He told the court that since the matter had originated from the Sessions Court, the matter should end at the Court of Appeal. Tan and Lee had filed an application at the High Court to drop the charge (of allegedly causing religious enmity) under section 298A (1)(a) of the Penal Code as they claimed that the said section did not apply to non-Muslims and thus could not be enforced on them.
They were alleged to have committed the offence at a restaurant in Dang Wangi on July 11 and 12, 2013. The couple lost in their bid at the High Court, but succeeded in their appeal at the Court of Appeal on April 21, last year, to strike out the charge.
The prosecution subsequently filed the appeal at the Federal Court. The Court of Appeal, in allowing the duo’s appeal ruled that section 298A (1) (a) could not be enforced on Tan and Lee as the section did not apply to non-Muslims.
Earlier in today’s proceedings, deputy public prosecutor Manoj Kurup submitted that the matter was appealable to the Federal Court. He said the High Court was the court of first instant to hear the matter which dealt with the constitutional points of section 298A (1) (a).
Alvin, whose full name is Tan Jye Yee, 27, and Vivian, or Lee May Ling, 26, however, still have two other charges pending at the Sessions Court. The charges include under the Sedition Act for posting of a picture of them accompanied by the caption “Selamat Berbuka Puasa (with Bak Kut Teh…fragrant, delicious and appetising) on the Facebook page.
The other is for allegedly displaying pornographic pictures on their Facebook account. They were alleged to have committed the offences at Kompleks Mutiara, Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur between July 11 and July 12, 2013 and July 6 and July 7, 2013 respectively. The two charges are scheduled for case management at the Sessions Court on March 6.