Malaysia frees woman scheduled for caning

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was inexplicably spared her sentence for drinking beer in public.
A Malaysian model, who was set to become the first woman to be caned in the southeast Asian country for drinking beer in public, was inexplicably spared her sentence Monday, her father said.

Authorities had picked up Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 32, from her father’s house Monday morning and were taking her to a prison in the eastern state of Pahang when the car turned around and brought her back. “They sent her back to the house. They said the top official asked them not to bring her to Kuala Lumpur,” said Kartika’s father, Shukarno Abdul Muttalib. It was not immediately known whether authorities had dropped the sentence or postponed it. It was also not clear who ordered Kartika returned. “Now I am frightened and I am going to the police station to make a report,” the father said. “I don’t want them to say that Kartika ran away when they came here. I want them to know she was returned.” Malaysia, which considers itself a moderate Muslim country, forbids alcohol consumption by Muslims — even those who are visiting.

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The country has a dual-track justice system, in which Islamic courts operate alongside civil ones.

The law forbidding alcohol applies only to Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of the population. The country’s Buddhist, Christian or Hindu population can drink freely. Kartika’s case has caused an uproar, with many citing it as another example of growing fundamentalism in the multiracial country.