KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 — The High Court here today dismissed the habeas corpus application filed by lawyers for Saudi Arabian journalist Hamzah Kashgari, granting the preliminary objection raised by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. 

Kashgari, who writes for the Jeddah-based Al Bilad newspaper, was deported on February 12 at the request of Saudi government for posting allegedly blasphemous messages on Twitter during the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

Blasphemy attracts the death penalty under the Middle Eastern country’s strict interpretation of the Syariah code.

“Instead of actually looking into the issues … (the judge) chose to completely strike out the entire matter,” lawyer N. Surendran told reporters here today.

“The court also refused to consider our application for the Immigration officers to be brought to court and cross-examined, so we are extremely disappointed by this,” the PKR vice president added.

He further accused the court of “completely and irresponsibly” abdicating its duty to justice and defending the rights of the ordinary man.

“Now no one is safe in this country because the courts are not protecting the fundamental liberties of the people… Kashgari clearly had rights in this country,” Surendran said.

“We have proof he was illegally deported and yet the court says it cannot do anything,” he added.

Another lawyer, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, said that while the case was academic “as the body is no longer here”, the High Court was still empowered to provide alternate remedies.

“We have the Federal Court’s decision saying that even though the person is no longer here, the court has the power to make other relief,” she explained.

“But the court refuses to grant this kind of relief to Kashgari whose fundamental liberty has been robbed,” she added.

Fadiah noted that since the writ of habeas corpus is “the highest constitutional safeguard in case of infringement of fundamental liberty”, there is “no safeguard at all now”.

“It’s a tragedy to human rights in this country, it is a tragedy to the constitutional safeguard of habeas corpus in this country,” she said.

“It is a tragedy because we live in a country where the court has failed its citizens the people in upholding its duty to protect us.”

Asked for their next course of action, Surendran said an appeal would be filed with the Court of Appeal within a week.

By Lisa J. Ariffin, The Malaysian Insider
February 22, 2012