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Sarawak Report editor fails to transfer criminal defamation case to KL High Court

Clare Rewcastle-Brown's application for transfer was dismissed on the grounds that it lacks merit.

2 minute read
Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown. Photo: AFP
Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown. Photo: AFP

The case of Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown of allegedly defaming the Sultanah of Terengganu Sultanah Nur Zahirah will remain to be heard in Kuala Terengganu Magistrate’s Court.

This came after High Court judge K Muniandy dismissed her application to transfer the case from Kuala Terengganu Magistrate's Court to the High Kuala Lumpur Court.

In dismissing the application, Muniandy said the power of transfer under Section 417 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) should only be exercised only if it appears that not doing so may result in an unfair or unimpartial trial or otherwise appears expedient in the interest of justice.

"The application by the applicant (Rewcastle-Brown) lacks merit. It is hereby dismissed," said the judge while adding Rewcastle-Brown's apprehension that she would not be accorded a fair trial in Kuala Terengganu was not reasonable.

The judge also cited several grounds for this, among others, an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the magistrate presiding over the case in Kuala Terengganu is independent and unbiased and she (Rewcastle-Brown) is not hampered to deliver submissions on both facts and law before the magistrate arrives at a finding. 
"If the decision on the case disfavours the applicant, she has the right to appeal against the decision to the High Court pursuant to Section 307 (1) of the CPC. 

"The applicant is subject to the law of the land where she is alleged to have committed a crime, thus the Malaysian legal system, including its criminal justice process prevails,” said the judge.

Judge Muniandy then ordered the case to remain at the Kuala Terengganu Magistrate's Court and it (the case) ought to proceed to trial without any further impediment since the date of charge was quite a long time ago on Sept 23, 2021.

Rewcastle-Brown, who is from the UK, was charged in absentia back in September 2021 at the Kuala Terengganu Magistrate's Court for criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Penal Code which carries a jail term of up to two years or a fine or both, if convicted.

She was alleged to have defamed Sultanah Nur Zahirah in a book titled "The Sarawak Report – The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose".

Deputy public prosecutor Noor Haslinda Che Seman appeared for the prosecution while Rewcastle-Brown was represented by counsel Guok Ngek Seong. Also present at today's proceeding was lawyer Siti Anis Che Ab Wahab who held a watching brief for Sultanah Nur Zahirah.

The Kuala Terengganu Magistrate's Court has set June 25 for mention of the case.