Malaysian sect member gets life imprisonment

AFP, June 27, 2003

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysia’s highest court Thursday substituted the death penalty for a sentence of life imprisonment imposed on a Muslim sect member convicted of planning a “holy war” to topple Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The court handed down the decision after hearing appeals from 19 members of the Al’Maunah group, three of whom had already been sentenced to death, while the other 16 had been given life imprisonment, the official Bernama news agency reported.

The prosecution had lodged a cross-appeal for increased sentences on all 16 who escaped the death penalty, but the judges only changed the sentence on 32-year-old mechanic Jemari Jusoh, who shot dead a soldier.

The martial arts sect, which taught members they were invulnerable to bullets, sparked one of the country’s biggest ever security alerts in July 2000 when they disguised themselves as soldiers and stole more than 100 weapons from two military armouries.

They then retreated to a jungle hideout where they broadcast calls over army radio for Mahathir to quit.

The group surrendered after a four-day standoff with some 2,000 troops, during which they murdered a policeman and a soldier they had held hostage.

They were sentenced by the High Court in December 2001. The formal charge against them was treason through waging war against the king, but the court was told that the sect planned a “holy war” to oust Mahathir and set up an Islamic state.

The five-member Federal Court bench led by Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said Thursday Jemari had shot the soldier in cold blood and there was evidence that the victim was tortured and had pleaded for his life.

The other three facing death by hanging include the leader of the sect, Mohamed Amin Mohamed Razali.

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